November is World Vegan Month and if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve spotted the growth in plant-based foods over the last few years. It’s been huge, with everyone from grocery stores, food brands and restaurants jumping on board the ‘plant-powered’ train. But what continues to drive it? And what else can we expect in the future?
We are CONTRAST and we can certainly help you take a well-educated guess. We’re a consumer-obsessed brand design agency that places people at the heart of all we do, relentlessly curious to what consumers love, loathe, and need more of in their life. And the plant-based arena is one where we have considerable experience, helping clients to create plant-based brands that thrive and endure, in this fast paced and ever-changing marketplace.
Through November, we will be exploring some of the main trends and influences behind the growth in plant-based, what we expect to drive the category in the near future and the trends to consider if you wish to get ahead of the curve.
So, let’s start at the beginning…
Vegan and plant-based are two closely linked, but very different things. Vegans choose to exclude all animal products from their diet and lifestyle, whilst plant-based refers to a diet that omits animal products and focuses on plant foods (Source: Vegan Kind). Over the last decade the rise of these diets has been immense, and both are now well and truly ingrained in the mainstream.
In the UK, by the end of January 2022, the Veganuary movement surpassed 2 million participants (Source: https://trulyexperiences.com). And in 2022, seven in 10 Americans consumed plant-based foods, up from 66% in 2021 (Source: Food Industry Executive). Indeed, researchers at US thinktank Rethinkx predict that “we are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption” of agriculture in history with 70% of the world’s population either reducing meat consumption or cutting it out completely (Source: Forbes).
With increasing concerns about health and climate, consumer interest in both plant-based diets and plant-based lifestyles has driven a wave of product innovation around the world. Analysts forecast that the market could grow to $160 billion by 2030. It’s safe to say that plant-based is now a lifestyle choice, and it’s here to stay (Source: Mintel).
So, with all of that in mind what do the current plant-based consumers want? How can brands and businesses continue to satisfy the growing demand while remaining at the forefront of their categories? It’s time to dig deeper, we’ve discussed the stats, now let’s explore the current needs and expectations of plant-based fans.
PUTTING THE “PLANT” BACK IN PLANT-BASED – LESS PROCESSED AND MORE NATURAL OPTIONS:
Consumers are increasingly aware of the food system’s climate impact and are making that part of their purchasing decision. Overlay that with consumers becoming increasingly health-conscious and you can expect to see a growing demand for plant-based products that are less processed and more natural. Brands can capitalise on this trend by offering minimally processed products made from whole, natural ingredients. And by combining this with cleaner and clearer ingredient labelling and sourcing information that offers transparency on which ingredients are used and why, businesses can build trust with consumers and position themselves as leaders in this health-conscious and environment focussed segments of the plant-based market (Source: Vypr research). So, expect a growth within traceability and environmental positivity to become even more visible on labels.
Case in point is the brand The Vegetarian Butcher, which has developed an ‘impact calculator’ that allows consumers to calculate their own positive impact when they adopt plant-based in place of animal meat. In recognition, the brand was recently named the “Most Sustainable Brand” by the Sustainable Brand Index, Europe’s largest independent brand study on sustainability, for the way it communicates its mission and impact (Source: Unilever).
ALL THE PLANT-BASED, WITHOUT THE HASSLE:
As the “mainstreamisation” of plant-based continues, so too does the need for it to be offered in an ever-more accessible and hassle-free way. Over the last few years clever brands have successfully added “convenience” to plant-based’s nutrition and environment focussed halo, proving that these concepts are not mutually exclusive. Plant-based consumers increasingly expect to see meat-free meal options that are fuss-free, in addition to being flavourful, healthy, and created in a sustainable way.
This is reflected in the global market for meal kits which is growing at almost 15% and, with it, the number of consumers actively ordering boxes with more vegetarian/vegan meals (Source: Unilever). Indeed, Globe News Wire predicts that demand for plant-based meal kits in the United States is likely to rise at 13.6% CAGR through 2033. So as busy, time-poor consumers, we want to have plant-based convenience, taste, and nourishment at our fingertips as well as cook like sous chefs! Brands can capitalise on this theme by adding convenience as a core product value and seeking out ways to offer consumers everyday inspiration for easy plant-based meals.
Whilst meat and dairy alternatives have been the primary focus of the plant-based industry, there is a growing appetite for more diverse and innovative plant-based options (Source: Vypr research). There has been a lot of excitement about mushrooms lately, and the trend is continuing with brands such as Fable Food and Popadelics making a big splash with their mushroom-based products (Source VegNews).
This trend presents an opportunity for brands to develop new recipes and flavors that cater to a wider range of tastes and preferences. By expanding their product offerings beyond traditional meat and dairy alternatives, businesses can attract a broader audience and differentiate themselves from competitors in the market (Source: Vypr research). Expect more recipes making use of mushrooms and other fungi as meat substitutes in dishes like stroganoff or even lasagne! Look out for new, high-tech imitation fish that do not come with complicated lists of ingredients, nor will they use GMO soy or the likes. Instead, they will use natural flavors and textures to create delicious (and traditional) dishes you can enjoy guiltfree. Things are only just beginning to get interesting!
Join us next time where we will be further exploring the current trends influencing the plant-based category. 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 DMs. In the meantime, feast your eyes on the recent design update of the Plant Pioneers brand for major UK retailer Sainsbury’s, completed by our creative partners Foster + Baylis in London to support the brand’s expansion into new ranges and occasions.
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