Who Is the Plant-Based Consumer?

Who Is the Plant-Based Consumer?

Consumers’ interest in plant-based foods continues to grow. But who exactly is the plant-based consumer? Here’s a look at the key differences in plant-based consumers in North America, Europe, and Asia. 

Highlights:

  • North American consumers are trying to increase their vegetable intake, with nearly 50% eating more meat alternatives.
  • European consumers have been reducing their meat consumption for health and environmental reasons.
  • In Asia, consumers consider both plant-based and animal products to be important in their diets. 

Global View of the Plant-Based Consumer

Rapid growth in innovation and accessibility of plant-based foods has made it easier than ever for consumers to explore plant-based eating. In some global regions, such as the US, high interest in meat and dairy alternatives is driving exciting new trends in plant-based protein.

Globally, vegans and vegetarians make up only 4% and 6.4% of consumers, respectively, indicating these groups are not driving the growth in plant-based foods.1 (For these two groups, animal rights and health are the top reasons for their eating patterns).2 Instead, the consumers largely driving the plant-based trend are those who restrict certain animal-based products but don’t follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet (42% of consumers globally).3

In looking at generations, Gen Z is the most likely to eat plant-based, while Baby Boomers are the least likely, with 54% of global Gen Z consumers trying to restrict consumption of meat and other animal-based products, compared to 34% of Baby Boomer consumers.4 Exploring the plant-based consumer by global region also offers insights into how to address consumer needs and preferences in plant-based products.

North America

In the US, 45% of consumers identify as omnivore, 8% as flexitarian, 5% as vegetarian, and 2% as vegan,5 with nearly 40% eating meat alternatives.6 One-third of consumers who eat plant-based proteins are doing more so than a year ago, citing as the main reasons that they're healthier (58%) and for variety (46%).7

two men grilling

While burgers are the most common form of plant-based meat in the US, parents (fathers, in particular) show a strong interest in formats like steak and pork.8 For adults who don’t eat plant-based proteins, the main barriers to choosing them are a preference for real meat, followed by price.9 There is also a strong interest in whole food plant proteins, with 44% of US consumers trying to increase their intakes of vegetable-based proteins, such as beans and nuts.10

Europe

The top five countries that account for 75% of the market share of Europe’s plant protein ingredients are: Germany (27%), the UK (20%), France (18%), Italy (6%), and Spain (4%).11 In Germany and the UK (where vegan claims are growing the fastest),12 consumers looking to include more plant-based foods in their diets cite health and the environment as the main reasons.13 One in three consumers in Germany and France describes their diet as flexitarian.14

Those looking to reduce their meat consumption include 57% of consumers in Spain, 55% in Italy, 50% in France, and 42% in Germany.15 Among meat reducers, the main reasons for buying plant-based products besides health and nutrition are wanting to try something new, that it looks tasty, and liking and trusting the brand.16 Plant-based milks, meats, and yogurts are the most popular.17 One in five German and French consumers plans to include more plant-based foods in their diets as a result of COVID.18

Asia

In China, most consumers follow an omnivore eating pattern. While more than half of Chinese consumers eat leafy vegetables, grains, and fruits daily, consumption of animal-based products is also common.19 Over half eat red meat and poultry or eggs, and more than one-third eat seafood, one to six times per week.20 

woman drinking milk

67% of Chinese consumers say they can’t get enough nutrition with only plant-based foods.21 Nonetheless, traditional mock meats (such as soy-based chicken, steak, duck, goose, and cod) are common in China, although they don’t attempt to mimic the taste of meat. Plant-based beverages (including soy, coconut, peanut, oat, rice, almond, and walnut) are popular, while plant-based yogurt still has a low penetration rate.22

Plant-Based Ingredients for Today’s Consumers

To address consumers’ growing interests in plant-based options for health, the environment, and variety, Glanbia Nutritionals' plant-based solutions can help you get started. Contact us to learn more about our plant proteins for food and beverage or to discuss plant-based trends in your region.

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References

1-4. Euromonitor, Going Plant-Based: The Rise of Vegan and Vegetarian Food, November 2020.
5. Mintel, Dairy Alternatives: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US, June 2020.
6-9. Mintel, Plant-Based Proteins – US, May 2021.
10. Datassential, Plant Based is Sprouting, March 2020.
11. LP, Global Plant Protein Market Growth 2020-2025, January 2020.
12. Mintel GNPD, September 2020.
13. FMCG Gurus – COVID-19 Survey – Germany & UK – February 2021.
14. The Good Food Institute, European Plant-Based Market Overview, June 2020.
15. Mintel, Regenerative Agriculture and the Meat Industry, March 2020.
16-17. The Good Food Institute, European Plant-Based Market Overview, June 2020.
18. FMCG Gurus – COVID-19 Survey – Germany & France – July 2020.
19-20. Mintel, Plant-based Diets – China, April 2020.
21. Mintel, Localising Plant-Based Meat for China, September 2020.
22. Mintel, Plant-based Drinks – China, May 2021.

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