Plant-based eating and alternative proteins are dynamic, disruptive forces in the food and nutrition market, gaining in popularity as consumer motivations regarding consumption of these foods grow. The global Coronavirus pandemic provided a boost and producers are rolling out new products, new positionings and novel ingredients. In addition, demographic trends are favourable and national support, driven by sustainability and food security concerns, suggests a bright future.
Sales of alternative proteins and plant-based substitutes continue to grow, and the impact of COVID-19 caused an acceleration, as mobility restrictions increased eating at home. While this was true of food retail in general, plant-based alternatives benefited to a greater degree than many other foods, with perceptions of their benefits working in their favour.
Key motivations for purchase and consumption include plant-based food’s health profile, sustainability claims and animal welfare (with the pandemic often strengthening these in consumers’ minds). The future is likely to see ever greater scrutiny of claims, especially as substitutes increase in viability as challengers to animal-based food’s hegemony.
Across a host of motivations and behaviours relating to plant-based consumption, it is younger adults that are most likely to hold such beliefs and commit to such actions. This, coupled with their increased likelihood to believe in their ability to make a difference and to have a willingness to do so, should support success in the future.
As 2020 drew to a close, lab-grown meat finally became available for human consumption (through foodservice) in Singapore. The location was no coincidence, as the government had backed cell-based development as part of moves to meet future climate change obligations and food security concerns. A number of countries around the world are also following this path; as such, a presence on retail shelves may come soon.
Developments in product types, positioning and – especially in dairy’s case – strength as an analogue are all underway, and novel ingredients are pressing the case to be the next big thing in production of alternatives. Also significant, however, are developments outside the lab, with investment, deals and collaborations involving multinational giants of the food world pointing to the continued potential in the alternative proteins and plant-based substitutes sphere.
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