Protein Trends in Plant-Based Meat and Plant-Based Milk

Explore the latest plant-based meat and milk protein trends, including consumer insights and popular claims

March 5, 2024 – The plant-protein market and animal-free protein market is experiencing an influx of innovation, with vegan protein popping up in numerous food and beverage categories. Consumer interest in plant-based options stems from multiple purchase drivers, offering brands continued opportunity to update their R&D and marketing efforts.

Global and Consumer Trends Support Plant-Based Protein 

Protein is a major focus for consumers, with Innova’s research showcasing a growing interest in plant-based protein. Global megatrends and food and beverage industry trends also support plant-based protein and vegan protein, with major political, economic, sociological and environmental events motivating consumers to pursue personal health and a sustainable future.  Other purchase drivers for plant-based protein revealed by consumer research include naturalness and animal welfare.

Innova’s global consumer research shows that a majority of consumers feel positive about products with plant-based protein such as plant-based meat and plant-based dairy, saying that they are healthy and natural. Solid percentages of consumers report having consumed plant-based milk or plant-based meat in the past year. Consumer trends also reflect an interest in plant-based protein as a food ingredient.

Plant-Based Protein Is Used in Many Foods and Beverages

Plant-based protein ingredients are added to foods and beverages to provide protein and also to improve sensory features.  With innovation in plant-based protein ingredients thriving in recent years, more choices of plant-based protein ingredients are now available. Product launches of foods and beverages with plant-based protein ingredients are going up in Europe and Latin America.

Plant-based protein and animal-free protein ingredients can be found in many food and beverage categories, including ready meals; meat, fish and eggs; plant-based meat substitutes; and plant-based dairy alternatives. Compound annual growth is strongest in plant-based meat substitutes, spreads, plant-based dairy alternatives, and soups.


Protein trends

Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian, and Plant-Based Claims Are Common 

The most common claims on package labels of products with plant-based protein pertain to protein, vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based. Halal claims also are going up. Over one-quarter of food and beverage launches with plant-based protein or non-animal protein ingredients have a protein claim, and protein claims are more common on plant-based products than on conventional ones. Following protein claims in prevalence are gluten-free claims. Vegan, vegetarian and plant-based claims, which some consumers may associate with clean label, sustainability, and lifestyle choice, are increasing on products with plant-based protein or non-animal protein ingredients.

Other fast-growing claims include added calcium and sugar-free.

Soy Protein, Pea Protein, and Wheat Protein Are Widely Used Plant-Based Proteins 

Soy protein, pea protein, and wheat protein are the most widely used plant-based protein ingredients. Plant-based protein ingredients from other types of legumes are also emerging. They may be used in intact, isolated, hydrolyzed, or concentrated forms. Over half of launches of plant-based meat substitutes contain plant-based protein or non-animal protein ingredients – up nearly 10 percentage points since 2020. Protein is an important feature of plant-based meat substitutes because consumers are looking for high-protein products that have similar protein and nutrition levels to animal-based meat and dairy products. Innova research shows that meat substitutes with plant-based protein or non-animal protein ingredients are growing faster than meat substitutes overall.

Plant-Based Meat Substitutes & Dairy Substitutes Lead the Plant-Based Market 

Growth in subcategories for plant-based meat substitutes and non-animal meat substitutes is led by soy products, plant-based fish alternatives, and plant-based poultry alternatives. Plant-based burgers, ground meat and meatballs show more modest growth.

Penetration of plant-based proteins and non-animal proteins is growing in dairy alternatives such as dairy alternative drinks, spoonable non-dairy yogurt, non-dairy cheese, and non-dairy ice cream. One challenge with plant-based dairy alternative milks is that oat milk, coconut milk and almond milk do not contain a high level of protein. Therefore, manufacturers are beginning to make changes that consider nutrition in plant-based dairy alternative milks and cheeses.

What’s Next? New Technologies and Improved Products  

Consumer trends show that consumers – especially vegetarians and vegans – are open to new technologies for developing plant-based meat substitutes and dairy alternatives. In addition, the continued consumer interest in improved taste and nutrition reveals another opportunity for manufacturers.


This article is based on our Insider report, “Global Growing Use of Plant Protein Ingredients.” 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.

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