woman looking at cereal in store

Flexitarians: Who Are They?

As more consumers embrace the flexitarian diet, it’s important for food and beverage manufacturers to understand who these consumers are, as well as the reasons behind their choice. Here’s everything manufacturers need to know about today’s flexitarians.

What is a Flexitarian?

The flexitarian diet continues to rank among today’s healthy diet trends. The term “flexitarian” refers to someone whose diet includes a high proportion of plant-based foods while still allowing small amounts of meat and other animal products. While this eating pattern is more flexible than those of vegetarians and vegans, it’s still distinctly plant-focused. According to a Mintel survey, 21% of U.S. adults identify as flexitarians.1

Top Drivers of the Flexitarian Diet

Mintel’s analysis of the flexitarian trend reveals three primary drivers.2 The first is the interest in reducing animal product consumption for health reasons. In fact, 45% of U.S. consumers strongly or somewhat agree that plant protein is healthier than animal protein.3

Another reason consumers might pursue a flexitarian diet is animal welfare or environmental concerns related to the production of animal products. U.S. consumers aged 18 to 44 are more likely than other age groups to cite these reasons, with ethical concerns the most commonly cited (26% for women and 24% for men), followed closely by environmental concerns (25% for women and 19% for men).4

plate of salad

Finally, some consumers are simply trying to include more plants in their diets. This could be to support healthy eating through the phytonutrients and fiber contained in plants, to enjoy a wider variety of foods, or for other reasons.

The Flexitarian Demographic

In diving into the demographics of the flexitarian diet, some clear patterns have emerged. For example, flexitarians skew slightly toward women and toward higher income levels (particularly $100,000 or higher per year); they’re also more likely to be suburban.

Age is also a factor. A significant trend in dietary preferences is that as consumers age, they are more likely to be flexitarians. While 17% of those aged 18 to 24 describe themselves as flexitarian, the number rises to 20% for those aged 45 to 54 and 25% for those 65 and older.6

Senior couple in kitchen chopping veggies

In addition, when compared to non-flexitarian households, flexitarian households are somewhat more likely to be child-free (59% vs. 53%).7 However, parents (of children under 18) are more likely to consume and be interested in a variety of plant-based protein sources such as nuts, seeds, quinoa, legumes, pea and soy proteins, mycoprotein, and algae, indicating an opportunity to market to this demographic as well.8

Opportunities for Manufacturers

As interest in healthy eating and ethical consumerism continues to grow, so too will plant-forward eating. However, the question of protein is still on the minds of many consumers. According to Mintel, only 43% of consumers think plant-based foods can provide all the protein they need, while 37% are unsure.9

This indicates an opportunity to offer consumers not just plant-based options but high-quality plant-based proteins, such as pea and quinoa proteins. Protein supplementation—especially in convenient RTD and RTE products like plant-based beverages and bars—is another approach,  in conjunction with protein claims to help educate consumers. 

Hybrid products that blend animal and plant-based proteins can also be used to address the needs of flexitarians. Products like the dairy-oat milk and dairy-almond milk blends that have recently emerged in the market offer new possibilities in balancing health and ethical concerns for the flexitarian.

Collaborate with Us

From our plant-based meat systems proteins to our functional and nutritious proteins, flax, chia, quinoa and oat ingredients, our plant-based solutions portfolio provides high-quality solutions that give your products outstanding nutrition, functionality, and flavor. Get in touch to learn more about how our plant-based solutions can help you reach your flexitarian consumers. 
 

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References

1. Mintel. Plant-based proteins. Sept 2019.
2. Mintel. Cater to the ‘why’ behind flexitarian eating. November 2019.
3. Mintel. Protein & produce in a post-Covid-19 world. May 2020.
4. Mintel. Future of plant-based diets depends on flexibility. October 2019.
5-7. Mintel. Plant-based proteins – US. September 2019.
8. Mintel, Plant-based proteins – US. May 2019.
9. Mintel. Patent watch: next-gen plant protein ingredients. March 2020.
 

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