April 1, 2023

A continued boom in plant-based foods

New Europe-wide consumer research from Innova Market Insights has highlighted the strength and breadth of demand for new plant-based food and beverage products. Among flexitarians (those who usually but not exclusively follow vegetarian or vegan diets), trust in the safety of plant-based products is high, but concerns remain over cost and limited choice. Innova’s research does, however, show a widespread desire among European consumers of all types to sample more plant-based alternatives across a range of products.

As part of the EU-funded Smart Protein project – and working alongside ProVeg International, the University of Copenhagen and Ghent University – Innova Market Insights surveyed thousands of consumers across 10 countries1 to uncover their up-to-date views on plant-based products. As well as discussing their current and intended eating habits, respondents were asked about their trust in plant-based products, the choice available and how they would like to see the sector develop.

Almost half of all respondents2 said they had already reduced their meat consumption significantly, with just under 40% saying they intended to do so in the near future. Additionally, around three in 10 plan to reduce dairy consumption, with a similar number stating a desire to consume “substantially more” plant-based dairy and meat alternatives.

There are high levels of trust in the safety of plant-based foods among flexitarians, with 60% believing such products are accurately labelled. Around half the flexitarian respondents think there is not enough choice of plant-based products in supermarkets or restaurants, while they perceive the available alternatives to be generally too expensive. However, consumers expressed a desire for a greater availability and range of plant-based poultry, beef, salmon, tuna and cheese offerings.

Innova Market Insights has tracked the rise in plant-based food and beverages for many years, as reflected in its annual Top Ten Trends. The company’s 2020 global consumer survey revealed a desire for tasty plant-based products which increased variety in their diets while addressing concerns around health and sustainability. Since then, and as confirmed by the latest survey, consumers are increasingly willing to accept and seek out alternatives across a wider range of products and occasions. One of Innova’s Top Ten Trends for 2022 – Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation – highlights the opportunities for the sector to branch out into all product forms from convenience foods to gastronomy.

The European survey for the Smart Protein project revealed taste and healthiness are still the biggest purchase drivers – particularly for flexitarians – when it comes to plant-based foods, with freshness, a lack of additives, and lower prices all important considerations that could be key to how far this sector continues to grow. Innovations in source proteins and finished offerings can address a clear demand for more plant-based food and beverages across Europe.

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