According to the Innova Meat, Dairy & Alternative Proteins Survey 2023, 15% of consumers in the US and Canada are flexitarian and 5% of consumers say they are vegetarian. Plant-based milk and plant-based meat remain the leading plant-based alternatives available in the food and beverage market. They also are the plant-based foods categories that are consumed most, along with plant-based ice cream and frozen desserts, plant-based cheese, and plant-based soups. One-quarter of consumers in the US and Canada say they buy plant-based dairy alternatives such as non-dairy milk, non-dairy yogurt, and non-dairy cheese, and one-fifth of consumers buy meat alternatives such as plant-based steaks, plant-based deli meats, and plant-based meat alternative snacks like jerky when they shop for groceries. Non-dairy milk is the most frequently consumed category in the dairy alternatives category, while meat cut alternatives are the most popular meat alternatives. Consumers surveyed in the Innova Trends Survey 2024 say they are more likely to eat plant-based meals at home compared to when eating out.
Plant-Based has a Healthy, Natural and Sustainable Image
Consumers describe plant-based products and plant-based diets as healthy, natural, and sustainable. Consumer trends show that consumers include dairy alternatives and meat alternatives in their diet for digestive health and protein intake. However, they are concerned about bad taste and flavor in plant-based dairy alternatives and meat alternatives and also about artificial ingredients. When asked about why they consume 100% plant-based alternatives, almost half of consumers say that they are healthier, better for the environment, and bring variety to the diet. Consumers have several concerns about 100% plant-based alternatives, led by price and taste and texture. One-third of consumers say that plant-based foods and plant-based beverages have an expensive image. Consumers in the US and Canada also are concerned about health.
Consumption insights for plant-based
Vegans, Millennials, and women are the groups that purchase plant-based dairy alternatives most often. Vegans are more frequent purchasers than followers of other diet principles are. However, consumers 55 and older include non-dairy milk in their meals and snacks more often than other age groups. Vegans have purchased more dairy alternatives in the past 12 months than followers of other diet principles have. Plant-based non-dairy milk is mostly consumed at breakfast, while plant-based cheese is commonly consumed at lunch and dinner and plant-based yogurt consumption is spread out throughout the day.
Preferences Vary for Plant-Based Dairy
Consumers prefer flavored plant-based milk over plain plant-based milk, plant-based yogurt with added health benefits over non-dairy yogurt without health benefits, and plain plant-based cheese over flavored plant-based cheese. They expect plant-based cheese to mimic dairy cheese in flavor and texture. Almond-based dairy alternatives, oat-based dairy alternatives, and coconut-based dairy alternatives are relatively familiar plant bases to consumers and they are well-accepted. Meanwhile, consumers plant-based dairy products to be cheaper and better tasting.
Vegans and Gen Z Buy the Most Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Vegans and Gen Z lead others in purchases of plant-based meat products. Vegans have purchased more meat alternatives in the past 12 months than consumers of other diet principles. Almost half of Gen Z consumers who participated in a consumer trends survey say they consume plant-based meat snacks or ready-made meat alternatives more than once a week. However, Millennials are the leading generation for plant-based deli meats.
Consumers typically buy meat alternatives at regular supermarkets and consume them at lunch and dinner. They like plant-based meat products that are suitable for everyday use and are sold with seasoning. Consumers are most familiar with and accepting of rice, potatoes, beans, and peanuts as plant-based meat alternative ingredients. In terms of format, burger/patties and finger foods such as nuggets and sticks are the most popular. Meanwhile, consumers want lower priced plant-based meats that have better taste/flavor.
What’s Next in Plant-Based?
Sustainability claims can attract consumers. Around 2 in 5 consumers in the US and Canada believe that plant-based products are more sustainable than regular dairy and meat. Benefits regarding better animal welfare also can encourage consumers in the US and Canada to buy more plant-based products. Consumers are most familiar with plant-based local cuisines that they prepare from scratch, but they can be attracted by plant-based local dishes using meal packages or by heating up ready meals.
This article is based on our Consumer Insider report, “Charting Tomorrow’s Plate: Plant-Based Trends in the US & Canada.” If you are interested in reading our report on plant-based dairy and plant-based meat in the US and Canada, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.