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24th July 2023  Author: Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight at FMCG Gurus

FMCG Gurus: Addressing Concerns About the Nutritional Value in the Plant-Based Market

While the Plant-based Market is Often Associated with being Synonymous with Health, the Nutritional Profile of Some Products can Work as a Barrier.

Across the globe, a total of 48% of consumers say they follow a diet around the avoidance or moderation of animal-based products, research in 2022 shows. This shows why the plant-based market has grown considerably over the years, from a niche at the turn of the century to a point where 45% of people say they have turned to a dairy alternative in the last twelve months, while 34% say this in relation to meat substitutes. Health is an important factor for turning to such products, with 70% and 81% citing this as an influential factor for consumption in the respective categories. However, despite the popularity of plant-based in general, and the association with health, concerns over the nutritional value of products can act as an inhibitor for the product category from an avoidance and moderation and positive nutrition perspective.

Indeed, whilst a significant proportion of consumers say they follow a diet around the avoidance and moderation of animal-based products, the longevity of which consumers follow these diets – especially flexitarians – is something that must be questioned. For instance, 43% of consumers admit they would struggle to give up meat long-term, while 34% say this in relation to dairy. While there are various reasons for this – and taste and indulgence being the biggest factors – one reason is that many consumers who have decided to abstain from dairy and meat in the last two years feel they are missing out on vital nutrients as a result (55% and 61% respectively). This is something that misaligns with the concept of positive nutrition, and consumers wanting reassurance that products are high in ingredients that are seen to positively contribute to health. This is a trend that continues, even as fear of the pandemic passes, with the focus now moving away from disease maintenance and back to healthy ageing. One solution to this is fortification, with people who abstain from animal-based products saying they are open to this within the plant-based market, providing that fortification is natural, doesn’t drive up the price, or negatively impacts taste.

Over the last twelve months, the plant-based market has witnessed some backlash in the media. One of the reasons for this is that some are questioning whether the industry is engaging in health-washing, and if products are really as healthy as perceived. These attitudes relate to some products having extensive ingredient lists, whilst others are high in sodium. Research conducted in 2023 shows that over the last twelve months, 58% of consumers say they have been more attentive to the ingredient listings of the products they purchase, with 54% saying they are looking to reduce their intake of dietary evils. In addition, approximately two-thirds of consumers said they are concerned about hidden ingredients in food and drink disguised via complex labeling. This means that consumers want reassurance that ingredients are real and authentic while adopting the notion of the fewer ingredients in a product the better – meaning a desire for streamlined ingredient lists and free-from claims. Associations with extensive ingredient lists and “bad” ingredients is something that could impact the plant-based market long-term.

Irrespective of whether consumers prioritize positive nutrition or avoidance and moderation, as the plant-based market continues to evolve and faces scrutiny, brands must look to address the profile of plant-based products.

This article is based on FMCG Gurus: Meat & Plant-Based – Global Report – 2022 which examines the dynamics of the global plant-based market, examining changing dietary habits and the motivations for doing so, what kind of products people turn to and why, and what need states are important when doing so. The report explores future opportunities for the industry, as well as highlights some of the barriers and challenges in the market that need to be addressed.



Date Published: 24th July 2023

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