Plant-Based Consumer Trends in Europe

Explore the latest plant-based consumer trends, including dairy and meat alternatives

Plant-based diets and the replacement of traditional dairy and meat products with plant-based products are here to stay. While consumers still seem inclined to incorporate plant-based alternatives into their daily lives, some major concerns remain. Understanding the underlying nuances in the plant-based category is important for success.

The Demand for Plant Based

The plant-based diet has bigger potential among flexitarian consumers. In terms of how consumers see themselves on the plant-based scale, one quarter of consumers in Europe label themselves as flexitarian. In the UK, nearly one in ten consumers are vegetarians, which is the highest among considered European countries. Vegans make up the smallest percentage of plant-based diet followers.

The leading products in the plant-based category are milk and meat, with plant-based consumer trends showing that regional preferences vary. Plant-based butter is the most popular product in France and Germany, while consumers in Spain and the UK state that they consume plant-based milk the most.

On a continental level, one-quarter of European consumers state they buy dairy alternatives (23%) and meat alternatives (24%) on typical trips to the grocery store.

Plant-Based Dairy

Plant-based consumer trends show that non-dairy milk is the most popular among 25- to 34-year-olds. Vegans have purchased more dairy alternatives in the past 12 months than consumers that follow other diet principles. When buying dairy alternatives, most consumers claim they often buy them at regular supermarkets, making it the largest outlet for buying dairy alternatives. The main occasion for consuming non-dairy milk is breakfast, with non-dairy cheese being most commonly consumed at dinner. Non-dairy yogurt, however, is consumed throughout the day.

Plant-Based Consumer Trends in Europe

Dairy Alternative Perceptions

Plant-based consumer trends reveal that consumers also seem to highly appreciate flavored and non-flavored dairy alternatives to be fresh. Despite the high appreciation, consumers are also asking for cheaper dairy alternative products (31%) and improved taste and flavor (23%). They would also prefer dairy alternatives with added health benefits. Out of all dairy-alternative options, it seems that almond-based and rice-based dairy alternatives are relatively familiar to and accepted by consumers.

As for plant-based dairy NPD, various ingredients appear on the scene, including UHT almond drink with added vitamins and minerals, drinks made with fermented rice, and UHT sterilized hazelnut with added vitamins. These developments will perhaps show that plant-based dairy alternatives have attributes that compete with traditional dairy products.

Plant-Based Meat

Plant-based consumer trends show that young consumers are also the most frequent meat alternative consumers. Vegans and vegetarians have purchased more meat alternatives in the past 12 months than consumers that follow other diet principles. Consumers typically buy meat alternatives at regular supermarkets and consume them during lunch (56%) or at dinner (65%).

Meat Alternative Perceptions

The most attractive attributes of meat alternatives are standard and suitable for every day, readily seasoned, and fresh according to consumers. However, consumers are asking for cheaper products with improved taste and flavor for meat alternatives. As for ingredients, consumers in Europe would like to see meat alternatives with more protein and less fat (25% and 20%, respectively). Considering consumer acceptance of meat alternatives, consumers are most familiar with and accepting of potato-based and rice-based meat alternatives. In terms of format, sausages and burgers and patties are the most popular meat alternative formats, with sausages being the most preferred meat alternative in Germany and the UK.

Plant-Based Preferences

Plant-based diets often carry a healthy, natural, and sustainable image. However, cost, and artificial ingredients remain major concerns for consumers. Consumers do not want to sacrifice their lifestyle and health choices despite the overall cost of living increasing. Consumers claim that naturalness, digestive health, and protein intake are the top health-related reasons for consuming dairy alternatives and meat alternatives. Simultaneously, the biggest health concern to avoid consuming dairy and meat alternatives is the “artificialness” of products. When asked about the reasons they consumer 100% plant-based alternatives, almost half of consumers say because they see it as healthier. Other important factors are that it brings variety to their diet, and that it is better for the environment. The biggest concerns about 100% plant-based alternatives are the price, taste, and texture.

What’s Next?

Plant-based consumer trends demonstrate that two in five consumers in Europe believe plant-based products are more sustainable than regular dairy and meat. The top environmental benefits that encourage consumers in Europe to buy more plant-based products are better animal welfare and less pesticide usage. Consumers would also like to see more plant-based products with improved taste and more natural and less artificial ingredients claims for dairy and meat alternatives alike.

Consumers seem to be most familiar with plant-based local cuisines, and they usually prepare food from scratch using fresh ingredients. Still, one-fifth of consumers prepare plant-based local dishes using meal packages or by heating up ready meals.

 

This article is based on our Consumer Insider report, “Evolving Horizons: What Lies Beyond for Plant-Based Consumers in Europe.” If you are interested in reading our report on plant-based consumer trends, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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