Pandemic significantly boosted plant-based category


Recent consumer research has revealed younger consumers are broadly happy with existing plant-based products

Global consumer demand for plant-based products has increased since the onset of COVID-19, research from Palsgaard suggests.

The emulsifier and stabiliser specialist commissioned consumer research into the plant-based market, focusing specifically on three categories: milk alternatives, dairy-free yoghurts and frozen desserts.

The research showed consumers are generally happy with existing plant-based products, but there are areas where they would like to see improvements, such as less sedimentation in plant-based milks; longer shelf-lives; and enhanced texture and creaminess.

The survey found nearly half of consumers (44%) had purchased more of such products since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve percent said their purchases of plant-based products had decreased, and 44% said they had stayed the same.

The number one reason respondents chose plant-based products was that they considered them better for health, an opinion held by 75.4%. The second biggest driver, chosen by 51.3%, was taste, while 45.8% bought into the category out of concern for the environment and sustainability.

Primarily, its younger consumers who have changed their purchasing behaviour. Since the pandemic's beginning almost half (47.4%) of those aged 18-24 (and 48.4% of those aged 25-34) had increased the number of plant-based products they were buying, compared with 34.8% of those aged 55-64.

Haydee Carlos, Palsgaard’s Application Manager, said: “The onset of COVID-19 appears to have triggered more interest in the market for plant-based food and beverages. This may be because the pandemic has led to a greater focus on health generally, and on the environment. At the same time, the plant-based sector is rapidly evolving, so there are more and more new products out there for consumers to explore.”

A white paper produced by the company covers the research in more detail, and identifies several areas where consumers would like to see improvements.

Carlos said: “The good news is our survey showed us that overall, consumers are really happy with the plant-based products that are already out there. We were, however, able to identify a few key areas where consumers would like to see improvements, and our White Paper explores this in more detail.”

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Palsgaard commissioned expert researchers to survey 1,307 consumers from Mexico, France, Russia, USA and Vietnam between 7-14 September, 2021.