Plant-Based Trends in the US and Canada: Unpacking Consumer Thoughts and Preferences

Discover the latest plant-based insights, including consumer trends and new technology

In a recent consumer research survey, US and Canadian consumers were asked about their perceptions and attitudes toward innovation in plant-based dairy alternatives and plant-based meat alternatives. These innovations include various product options in the plant-based market, farming practices and production methods for dairy alternatives and meat alternatives, technologies for plant-based meat and plant-based dairy, and opportunities for new product development.

Plant-Based Dairy and Plant-Based Meat Have Several Subcategories

Plant-based dairy alternatives include any traditional dairy-based subcategories where the dairy components have been replaced with non-dairy options, for example, plant-based non-dairy milk, plant-based cheese, vegan butter and margarine, non-dairy creamer, plant-based yogurt, plant-based non-dairy ice cream, plant-based baby formula and sports nutrition products with non-dairy ingredients.

Subcategories for plant-based meat alternatives continue to expand. They include burgers, ground meat, meatballs, whole cuts of red meat, meat snacks such as jerky, deli meats, poultry, pork, sausage, fish and seafood, and ready meals that are made with non-meat or plant-based ingredients like soy, tofu, mushrooms, algae, vegetables, grain or other plant-based non-meat ingredients.

Trends Impact Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives and Meat Alternatives

Global trends help drive interest in plant-based dairy alternatives and meat alternatives in the US and Canada. Two of Innova’s major global macrotrends, Healthier Living and Conscious Consumption, help define consumer interest in plant-based meat alternatives and non-dairy alternatives in the US and Canada. Global food and beverage trends also explain growing interest. Through Affordable Nutrition, new technologies can make farming and manufacturing more efficient and deliver higher nutrition to consumers at a lower price. Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative explains how underused ingredients and new manufacturing methods are offering plant-based meat and dairy alternative innovation platforms. A related trend, Farming the Future, demonstrates how new farming systems or techniques offer opportunities to improve quality and sustainability.

Plant-Based Trends in the US

American Consumers are Interested in Meat and Dairy Alternatives

A sizable percentage of consumers in North America – 20% – say they are limiting red meat consumption and 15% report limiting dairy. Although smaller numbers of consumers follow a plant-based diet, many consumers are eating more plant-based dairy and plant-based meat alternatives. Consumers 25-34 have high expectations that plant-based dairy and meat alternatives should be able to stand on their own rather than be alternatives and that they should mimic meat and dairy products.

Consumers express a preference for plant proteins from nuts, oats and chickpeas. These are among the most widely used bases. Expanding base variety, especially with options such as fungi, could better mimic the taste and texture of regular dairy and meat.

Consumers have positive views of plant-based products around health, naturalness, animal welfare, and sustainability. However, they are concerned about taste, texture, and cost. It is possible that new plant-based technologies can address these concerns.

Consumer Attitudes Toward Technologies

Consumers are somewhat skeptical about plant-based foods and beverages made with modern technologies. Their acceptance of technology will depend on the ability of manufacturers to deliver healthier, cheaper, tastier, or more environmentally friendly products. Other barriers to adoption include concerns about costs to consumers and farmers, the novel nature of new technologies, and unknowns of longer-term health effects. Consumers are less likely to trust groundbreaking methods but consumer-friendly explanations might reduce their fears.

Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives Offer Benefits

Consumers name price, health and taste as top reasons for decreasing dairy, and about one in five in North America use plant-based dairy alternatives to cut back. Younger consumers consume plant-based dairy most often, at least once a week. Consumers think plant-based dairy alternatives are more sustainable and healthier but more expensive than regular dairy. They want new technologies to deliver improved taste and view fermentation and pasteurization positively.

Younger Consumers Drive Plant-Based Meat

Up to 30% of US and American consumers eat plant-based meat or plant-based poultry alternatives at least weekly, led by a higher percentage of younger consumers. Meat alternatives are considered to be more sustainable and healthier than animal meat products but lag behind meat for taste, texture, price, and perceived salt content. Consumers want new technology to offer improved taste in plant-based meat but half or more view meat alternative technologies negatively.

What’s Next in Technology for Plant-Based Dairy and Meat Alternatives?

Plant-based dairy and meat alternatives are expected to continue gaining popularity, particularly among younger consumers. Products that mimic the taste and texture of regular meat and dairy while offering better nutrition are likely to be most successful.

American consumers are most likely to try products that are manufactured using familiar methods such as fermentation and pasteurization. They also may be more open to technologies that seem more natural, such as regenerative, precision, and vertical farming. Education is needed to help consumers understand the benefits of products that are bioengineered, cultured, cell-based, or grown using landless agriculture.


This article is based on our Consumer Insider report, “The Future Plate: Interest in Novel Meat & Dairy Alternative Technologies in the US & Canada.” If you are interested in reading our report on plant-based technologies 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.

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