EUROPE — Price and choice have been identified as the two key factors that will drive future growth of the incredibly popular plant-based food market, according to a new Europe-wide consumer research from Innova Market Insights. 

As part of the EU-funded Smart Protein project, Innova Market Insights surveyed thousands of consumers across 10 countries to uncover their up-to-date views on plant-based products.  

Almost half of all respondents said they had already reduced their meat consumption significantly, with just under 40% saying they were planning 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. 

The study also revealed high levels of trust in the safety of plant-based foods among flexitarians, with 60% believing such products are accurately labeled.  

Not-enough choice in the market 

Around half the flexitarian respondents think there is not enough choice of plant-based products in supermarkets or restaurants, revealing a widespread desire among consumers to sample more plant-based alternatives across a range of products.   

Where alternatives were available, consumers perceived them to be generally too expensive, highlighting the role price plays in influencing consumer purchasing decisions.  

When it comes to choice, consumers expressed a desire for greater availability of plant-based poultry, beef, salmon, tuna, and cheese offerings. 

Research by The Vegan Society has also demonstrated this desire for variety.

The research revealed a sharp rise in consumers sampling animal-based alternatives with many choosing to continue with these purchasing habits. 

Innovations key in addressing demand 

Innova Market Insights has tracked the rise in plant-based food and beverages for many years, as reflected in its annual Top Ten Trends.  

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. 

The market research firm also singles out Freshness, a lack of additives, and lower prices as the other important considerations which could be key to how far this sector grows in the years to come. 

Innova’s research is in stark contrast with recent admissions by Marple Leaf’s CEO Michael McCain, that growth rates for its plant-based products “have, to be frank, evaporated.”    

Other players such as Beyond Meat have also experienced trouble with the plant-based meat giant recently slashing Q3net revenues to about US$106 million from prior guidance of US$120 million to US$140 million.  

Despite the headwinds that players in the segment are finding themselves in, Innova is confident that 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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