Flexitarians driving plant-based trend

Published: 6-Apr-2022

Product development should focus on the hybrid group, rather than the smaller vegan population, recent consumer research from Beneo suggests

Global research, commissioned by Beneo, has shown that flexitarian consumers are driving the demand for plant-based food. These consumers are particularly interested in transparent labels, sustainability, health and ‘food adventures,’ the company says. The survey was done by the market research agency Insites Consulting, and involved 11,990 consumers in 10 countries.

In recent years, the plant-based trend has moved from being niche into the mainstream. With one in four consumers globally describing themselves as flexitarians, and only 7% across the world (11% in the UK) identifying as vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian, flexitarians are now the most important target group for manufacturers of plant-based products.

According to the research, approximately half of flexitarians already buy alternatives to meat (45%) and dairy (49%), with almost one in three also buying plant-based sweets like chocolate (32%). Another third is interested in meat and dairy alternatives - stating they can be converted to these categories with the right products. That’s why, Beneo argues, understanding the desires and expectations of this group is key in plant-based product development.

Research shows flexitarians are particularly interested in sustainability and transparent labels: 84% of the group is concerned about climate change and 86% want to know how their food is made and what’s in it, while 60% consider product quality and traceability labels when shopping (compared to 41% of the general population). The company says this shows the importance of prioritising this kind of information on-pack.

Flexitarians are also interested in health and food adventures. Half of flexitarian respondents say they want to keep up with the latest food trends, creating opportunities for producers of more adventurous foods across a range of applications and different cuisines. However, similar to the general population, pleasant taste and texture remain key to repeat purchase for flexitarians.

Beneo offers ingredients and expertise in creating clean and clear label recipe concepts to help meet the increased demand for plant-based foods that deliver both in terms of texture and taste. These include BeneoPro W-Tex, a textured wheat protein with a firm, minced meat like texture after hydration, neutral taste and flavour. It can be used in various plant-based applications including burgers, nuggets, sausages, chicken strips/fillet imitation and ready-meals. The company’s rice ingredients deliver creamy and smooth textures, stability and clean taste for dairy alternatives and plant-based confectionery.

Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at Beneo, said: “Flexitarians are the driving force within the plant-based segment and they are a sophisticated target group: they are looking for a convenient way to include innovative and adventurous taste experiences in their daily diet and aren’t willing to compromise on enjoyment. Delivering on taste and texture is key to building a loyal consumer base. Thanks to ingredients such as those from Beneo it is possible for ‘plant-based’ and ‘indulgence’ to go hand in hand for a wide variety of applications.”

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