Opportunities in Clean-label Plant-based Meat Alternatives

Opportunities in Clean-label Plant-based Meat Alternatives

As more consumers turn to plant-based meat alternatives to support a healthier diet, brands offering clean ingredient labels will have an edge. 


  • Since the pandemic, more consumers are turning to plant-based products to feel healthier.
  • Plant-based burgers and chicken are the most popular meat alternatives. 
  • Consumers are willing to pay more for a cleaner label on their plant-based products.

High Growth in US Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Market

The $1.4 billion US plant-based meat market increased in sales by more than $430 million from 2019 to 2020—a growth rate twice that of real meat.1 Nearly one in five US households purchase plant-based meat, with over 290 million units of plant-based meat sold in 2020.2

Despite this rapid growth, plant-based meats make up only 1.4% of the total retail meat market, indicating a $14 billion opportunity.3 This will rely on brands offering the taste, convenience, and nutrition that non-users are accustomed to with real meat products. Fortunately, many brands are already delivering innovative meat alternative trends that range from gourmet plant-based deli meats to plant-based microwave meals.

Health is Driving the Increase in Plant-Based Meat Consumption

While environmental concerns remain a key driver of plant-based meat purchases, health as a driver may be growing, especially in light of the pandemic. In the US, 35% of consumers identify as flexitarian, and for those who eat plant-based meat, the top reason for choosing plant-based products is it makes them feel healthier.4 

In addition, one-third of US consumers who eat plant-based proteins report they’re doing so more often than they were a year ago.5 58% of these consumers say it’s healthier than eating meat, and 45% report they’re trying to eat less meat.6

couple eating burgers

Which Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Consumers are Buying

The top five brands account for nearly half (46%) of the meat alternatives market and consist of  Beyond Meat, Boca, Dr. Praeger’s, Field Roast, and Gardein.7 Plant-based burgers and chicken are the most popular type of meat alternative, with 60% of consumers having tried plant-based burgers and 46% having tried plant-based chicken.

Which of the following types of plant-based meat alternatives have you tried?

Type of Meat Alternative Proportion of US Consumers Who Have Tried
Burgers 60%
Chicken 46%
Sausage 43%
Meatballs 41%
Turkey 38%
Source: Mintel, Plant-Based Proteins – US, May 2021, Base = 1,610

How Clean Label Ingredients Influence Plant-Based Meat Selection

With health-consciousness growing among consumers, it’s important for brands to consider if they’re offering plant-based meat alternatives that consumers perceive as healthy. 75% of US consumers say ingredient content influences which processed meat alternatives they buy, while 63% would like to see more plant-based meat alternatives made with whole foods ingredients.9

Two-thirds of US consumers say they would be willing to pay at least 5% more for a plant-based meat alternative with clean label attributes.10 So what do they consider to be clean label? The top answers for what clean label means to them are:11

  1. No artificial colors/flavors
  2. A limited number of ingredients on the ingredient list
  3. Non-GMO
  4. Knowing what the ingredients are
  5. Preservative-free

Clean label plant-based meats also represent an opportunity in Europe, with 41% of UK consumers saying a short ingredient list is more appealing than a long one on meat-free foods and 31% saying meat-free foods are too processed to be healthier than meat.12

making a salad

See the Difference Clean Label Can Make

As consumers seek to incorporate plant-based meat alternatives into their diets to replace meat, shifting away from the image of a heavily processed product with a number of ingredients (including unfamiliar ones) will become a priority to meet their expectations for healthy food.

Our clean label Simpleat™ Plant-Based Meat Solutions can give your brand a head start. The Simpleat portfolio includes two fully cooked options: Simpleat Crumble and Simpleat EZStrips, as well as Simpleat Tender, an easy-to-use powder perfect for making your own plant-based meats. Whether you need a plant-based meat for the main course or for use in a dish, such as tacos, pizzas, or chili, Simpleat can meet your needs.

Watch our video to see how easy it is to use Simpleat plant-based meats in today's most popular dishes.


1-3. The Good Food Institute, U.S. retail market data for the plant-based industry, January 2021.
4. Glanbia Nutritionals Primary Research, PB Meat Survey, January 2020.
5-6. Mintel, Plant-Based Proteins – US, May 2021.
7. The Good Food Institute, State of the Industry Report | Plant-Based Meat, Seafood, Eggs, and Dairy, 2021.
8-9. Mintel, Plant-Based Proteins – US, May 2021.
10-11. Glanbia Nutritionals Primary Research, PB Meat Survey, January 2020.
12. Mintel, Changes in Meat Consumption in Europe, July 2020.

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