chicken and fries plate

4 Ways COVID Impacted Plant-Based Alternatives

The COVID pandemic is impacting the plant-based alternatives market in some important ways. These four trends show why plant-based eating is on the rise and how to tap into further growth in plant-based foods.

Highlights:

  • Since COVID, consumers across the world have made health a higher priority.
  • Some consumers are turning to plant-based alternatives which they may perceive to be healthier than animal products. 
  • Environmental issues are also driving consumers towards plant-based foods.
  • Plant-based options are now more accessible to consumers everywhere. 

1. COVID Driving Interest in Healthy Eating

Health has become a new priority for consumers across the globe. In China, for example, 71% of consumers say healthy eating is a higher priority for them since the COVID outbreak.1 Beyond the importance of a healthy immune system, consumers have learned that the impacts of COVID can be more serious for those with preexisting health conditions. This includes diet-related health problems like diabetes and obesity. 

Proportion of Consumers Who Agree Eating Healthily is a Higher Priority Since COVID

Country Proportion of Consumers
China 71%
South Korea 55%
Australia 40%
United States 36%
Italy 34%
Germany 22%
Source: Mintel, Plant-based foods in a post-COVID-19 world, August 2020

More consumers are making dietary choices to support preventive health, such as eating more plant-based and fewer animal-based foods. In Spain and Italy, nearly one in three consumers is eating fruit and vegetables more often since the start of COVID, while one in four Chinese and German consumers plans to eat fewer animal products after COVID.

Proportion of Consumers Who Plan to Eat Fewer Animal Products After COVID

Country Proportion of Consumers
China 25%
Germany 24%
Spain 21%
Mexico 21%
United States 20%
Australia 17%
Source: Mintel, Plant-based foods in a post-COVID-19 world, August 2020

2. Plant-Based Alternatives Seen as Safer

Compared to animal-based foods associated with “factory farming,” plant-based alternatives are seen not only as more ethical, but also safer. The zoonotic origin of COVID has put a spotlight on the role of livestock crowding in potential emerging diseases. 

56% of Chinese, 53% of Mexican, and 40% of German consumers agree the COVID pandemic proves people need to eat fewer animals.3 Going forward, consumers may take a “less but better” approach, such as choosing “free range” and “outdoor reared” animal products, while consuming animal products less often, and substituting with plant-based alternatives on other occasions.

woman looking at meat with mask

3. The Environment Is a Higher Priority

Before the COVID outbreak, concern about the environment was one of the leading reasons consumers sought to reduce their intakes of animal-based products. For example, just before the pandemic, 35% of Canadian consumers agreed factory farming was an environmental issue they were concerned about when buying food and drink.4

Proportion of Consumers Who Agree the Environment is a Higher Priority Since COVID

Country Proportion of Consumers
China 52%
Brazil 48%
Italy 33%
Australia 31%
United States 23%
Source: Mintel, Plant-based foods in a post-COVID-19 world, August 2020

Since COVID started, the environment has become a higher priority for many, including about half of Chinese and Brazilian consumers and one-third of consumers in Italy and Australia.5 This suggests more consumers may be likely to choose foods and beverages seen as better for the environment, such as plant-based alternatives.

4. Plant-Based Foods More Accessible During COVID

Another trend growing during COVID is plant-based alternatives becoming more accessible to consumers. This has ranged from retailers stocking more plant-based meats during meat shortages to the expansion of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods products into more fast food chains.

The pandemic has also seen the emergence of a number of start-ups offering direct-to-consumer products, such as plant-based meats, beverages, and meal kits. In addition, a new focus on plant-based alternatives meeting regional needs with authentic spices and sauces or traditional preparation methods is making these products more approachable to consumers, as is the use of locally grown ingredients.

rice and meat bowl

Opportunities Ahead

These shifts indicate some new ways companies can connect with consumers and grow their brands. Ensuring plant-based products deliver on health and nutrition will be important going forward. Brands can also promote plant-based products as an ethical and safe choice. Continuing to make plant-based alternatives more familiar and accessible will also help to expand these products into the mainstream.

For ingredients to support your brand in making healthy and delicious plant-based alternatives that will appeal to today’s consumers, our plant-based solutions can help. Our portfolio includes plant-based proteins for dairy alternatives like plant-based milks, yogurts, and ice creams that deliver great texture and nutrition and our Simpleat™ line for plant-based meats, which includes fully cooked plant-based crumbles and strips.

Contact Glanbia Nutritionals to learn more.

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References

1-5. Mintel, Plant-based foods in a post-COVID-19 world, August 2020.

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