The Rise of Vegan and Vegetarian Food

November 2020

Demand for vegan and vegetarian food continues to grow. This report analyses drivers behind demand, how manufacturers are marketing these products and the most popular claims featured. It also delves into opportunities for the future and expected category developments moving forward.

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Key Findings

Flexitarians are the driving force of the plant-based trend

Consumers following strict vegan and vegetarian diets remain a small group of the population, whereas those restricting animal-based foods account for over 40% of global consumers in 2020. Overall, health and animal rights are the two key motivators for choosing these diets but there are country-specific nuances – while more ethical reasons clearly dominate in countries like the UK and Germany, health reasons are just as important in markets such as the US and Australia.

Cost is critical for adoption and even more so in times of economic crisis

The demand for plant-based food has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail sales of categories like milk alternatives and meat substitutes have skyrocketed, mainly in Western countries. However, one of the main barriers for adoption remains price as the plant-based offering is significantly more expensive than its animal-based counterparts. With disposable incomes falling, closing the price gap is more important than ever.

Featuring “plant-based” claims remains a niche

In terms of positioning, vegan and vegetarian claims (or “dairy-free” in the case of dairy alternatives) are much more widespread than the “plant-based” claim. Featuring plant-based is perceived to be more inclusive and appealing for a wider consumer base; however, combining it with a vegan claim or trademark can build trust and add transparency about the product being 100% plant-based.

Bright future ahead for the plant-based food industry with exciting innovation in cheese and fish replacements

The plant-based food space is set to grow fast in the coming years. It is expected that a wide range of manufactures and ingredient companies will further develop niche categories, such as cheese or fish replacements. Recent launches in the space from big food players such as Fromageries Bel and Nestlé are proof of this. Other areas with potential ahead include vegan confectionery and baked goods.


Key findings

Defining the Vegan and Vegetarian Consumer

Vegan and vegetarian consumers remain a small group
Animal rights key for vegans while health main motivator for vegetarians
Ethical vs health reasoning varies by country
Younger generations shape demand for plant-based foods
Financial cost is a key barrier for adoption
Patterns diverge in emerging versus developed economies
Closing the price gap will be more important than ever

Claims and Positioning

Plant-based diets gain momentum on the back of the pandemic
Plant-based claims can appeal to a wider consumer base
Dairy-free vs Vegan: positioning milk alternatives
Almond Breeze’s position succeeds in the US
Vegan and vegetarian claims stand out in meat substitutes
Quorn’s positioning taps into both ethical and health credentials
Vegetarian claims used as a marketing tool
Vegan claims stand out in snacks bars

Future Outlook

Transition towards more plant-based claims is underway
Making vegan positioning more attractive: learning from success
Diversification in cream, cheese and sour milk products is next
Non-dairy cheese: Bel to bring a niche to the masses
Nestlé taps into vegan seafood
Vegan confectionery remains in a niche but Finland leads the way
Vegan baked goods: an area for further exploration
Confectionery and baked goods players get up to speed
Future outlook: key takeaways


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