Taste Is The Top Reason Consumers Eat Plant-Based Proteins

Friday, March 2nd, 2018 | 2971 Views

Over half (52 percent) of consumers in the US say that taste is the main reason they eat plant-based proteins, according to research by market intelligence agency Mintel.

Whether flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan or simply eating healthy, plant-based foods are making inroads with consumers. In a survey of 1,876 US internet users aged above 18 who eat plant-based proteins, it was found that taste outranks concerns over diet (10 percent), animal protection (11 percent), the environment (13 percent) and even health (39 percent).

While taste tops the list of reasons to eat plant-based proteins, perceived health benefits are on consumers’ minds as nearly half (46 percent) of Americans agree that plant-based proteins are better for you than animal-based options, and three quarters (76 percent) say plant-based foods are healthy. Whether a desire to avoid processed foods (39 percent), manage weight (31 percent) or promote muscle growth (16 percent), many plant-based protein consumers are motivated by maintaining or improving their health and well-being.

When it comes to making decisions in the grocery aisle, taste (65 percent) is again the driving factor for those who eat plant-based proteins, followed by health-centric attributes. These consumers are more likely to seek plant-based protein products with no artificial ingredients (41 percent), that are high in protein (35 percent) and fibre (28 percent), and those that are non-GMO (28 percent).

Non-GMO claims in particular are driving innovation in the category, as food and beverage launches in the US with plant-based proteins with a non-GMO claim grew from 3.8 percent in 2012 to 19.6 percent in 2017, according to the Global New Products Database by Mintel.

Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, explains: “Despite the fact that health attributes, particularly free-from, factor strongly in consumer decisions when purchasing plant-based proteins, at the end of the day, taste is the driving force behind purchase and eating decisions. While overall consumption of plant-based proteins remains low, these products benefit from a generally healthy reputation both for consumers’ diets and for the environment, and growing consumer interest in better-for-you lifestyles will continue to drive interest in the category.”

While healthy and functional attributes are of interest to consumers, with less than half (46 percent) of Americans saying they trust the functional claims made by plant-based foods, there is opportunity for brands to further communicate the benefits. In fact, 71 percent of Americans agree that brands should provide more information about product/ingredient origin on packaging.

“Busy consumers look for shortcuts for how to live well, and labels offer a quick and easy understanding about what a product contains and how it has been treated. In order to appeal to consumers, brands should offer a tasty product offering boasting no artificial ingredients, protein content, non-GMO, and fibre content, and be sure to highlight these features on-pack,” continued Mr Roberts.

Finally, while interest in plant-based proteins is on the rise, animal-based meat is here to stay. More than two thirds (67 percent) of Americans agree that meat is essential to a balanced diet, and just over half (51 percent) believe a meal is not complete without meat.

“The opportunity for plant-based proteins appears more as a complement to animal-based proteins than as a wholesale replacement, as our research shows that many consumers are interested in plant-based proteins but still view meat as an important part of a balanced diet. The biggest challenge for the plant-based proteins category continues to be finding the right balance between flavour and health, and discovering the categories where consumers will accept the addition of plant-based varieties,” concluded Mr Roberts.