Welcome back. We’re CONTRAST and in our previous article we established that plant-based consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable, healthy, and nutritious foods to add to their diets. Let’s explore further where the future of plant-based is headed and how brands can stay ahead of the curve. Read on to find out more!
A TIME TO RE-ASSESS:
After a rapid rise, the plant-based market now finds itself facing a challenge in the short-term. Recent economic conditions have caused some consumer interest in plant-based to wane with many consumers turning away from purchasing expensive plant-based meat alternatives. Overlay this with the inflationary pressures faced by manufacturers and it becomes easier to understand the recent financial challenges experienced by brands such as Beyond Meat, Meatless Farm and Plant & Bean. Indeed, Mintel’s industry analysts believe that the meat alternatives market in the UK is in a weaker state than a year ago, due to the pressure on household finances (Source: Mintel).
It means that price and accessibility are important factors for consumers when choosing plant-based products. Brands can address this by offering a range of more affordable plant-based products and work to increase their distribution and visibility in the market. By making plant-based options more accessible and cost-effective, businesses can attract a larger customer base and encourage a wider adoption of plant-based diets (Source: Vypr).
CREATING NEW PLANT-BASED OCCASIONS:
Despite the current economic challenges, silver linings do still exist. Insight from Mintel confirms that the frozen plant-based meal alternative category remains relatively resilient and new product innovation offers scope to expand the market by bringing plant-based into new consumption occasions. This is especially true of special occasions linked to seasonal holidays, where research confirms customer perceive there are not enough plant-based options currently (Source: Vypr). By offering a range of seasonally focussed plant-based alternatives, brands have an opportunity to tap into this unmet demand and in doing so, further reinforce the appeal of plant-based diets.
LAB-GROWN MEAT- FREAKY OR FUTURISTIC?
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that raising livestock takes about 80% of all agricultural land but produces just 18% of the world’s calories (Source: The Economist). In theory, lab-grown meat offers the potential to provide a solution to the ethical and environmental concerns associated with the traditional methods of rearing animals for meat. In June 2023, U.S. regulators approved the sale of chicken made from animal cells, allowing two Californian companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, to offer “lab-grown” meat to the nation’s restaurant tables and eventually, supermarket shelves (Source: https://apnews.com)
However, even if lab-grown meat overcomes these issues, it is still animal meat and carries many of the same implications of consuming meat as traditionally farmed meat. So, for many this will never be a genuine or viable substitute. As a result, for those who truly wish to refrain from animal meat, plant-based protein alternatives will continue to lead the way in plant-based food innovation (Source: https://allmanhall.co.uk).
In direct competition, new technologies are starting to achieve a more meat-like texture in vegan steaks, fillets, and other products. Indeed, American brand Juicy Marbles has recently launched its plant-based fillet mignon in the UK, and Chicago based Aqua Cultured Foods are developing whole-muscle cut plant-based fish and seafood (Source: Food Matters). By staying at the forefront of food technology, brands have the potential to differentiate themselves whilst meeting the evolving needs of plant-based consumers (Source: Vypr).
FUSION AS THE NEW NORMAL
There is a new desire to fuse and mix kitchen styles and traditions. A cheerful experimentation of ingredients and methods of preparation is inspiring many and is spreading rapidly in the form of new popular recipes on social media platforms. Get ready for mix and match of plant-based and animal-based ingredients, cross-cultural ingredient fusion, and of course, having dinner for breakfast and vice versa!
50% of flexitarians want to keep up with the latest food trends (Source: Insites Consulting). This speaks to an increasing consumer demand for products that tap into functional health. There is a growing opportunity for brands to innovate with functional ingredients and promote the beneficial aspects of plant-based foods, such as non-dairy drinks. Indeed, over a fifth of Brazilian consumers are interested in milk substitutes designed for athletic recovery (Source: Mintel).
So, are you ready to welcome the plant-based future with open arms? There’s no doubt that market conditions are challenging right now. But for those brands that can offer consumers innovative, accessible, health-conscious plant-based products for both every day and special occasions, delivered in an environmentally friendly and transparent way, the sky really is the limit.
If you’re looking for help with a plant-based project or fancy a chat about creating or evolving an existing brand, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. In the meantime, feast your eyes on the recent design update of the Source of Nature Vegan beauty brand for major UK retailer Sainsbury’s, completed by our sister creative agency in Foster + Baylis in London.
Catch up on our Vegan Blog Part One here.
For more information or to meet with one of our creators, email us at [email protected].