Published 4 days ago.
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The growing appetite for a shift away from meat-based diets is good news for addressing a range of health and climate issues. But business has
a critical role to play in making the transition as affordable, accessible and delicious as possible.
lockdowns have been tough on all of us. To combat boredom, depression and
anxiety, and to boost mental wellbeing, many of us have turned to exercise as a
coping mechanism. The market for home fitness equipment grew more than 40
percent in 2020. Peloton alone could be worth $60
in the next four years, with analysts suggesting it is on a similar trajectory
to the likes of Apple and Netflix.
Getting fit was already increasing in popularity, as evidenced by the global
demand for fitness tracking devices such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch —
which increased 32
in 2019. We want to look after ourselves now more than ever before.
This is certainly clear from the findings of the recently released global
consumer insights research from GlobeScan. The latest GlobeScan Healthy &
shows ‘wellbeing’ to be the number-one area of interest for consumers in all
markets, regardless of age and demographic. As GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter explains:
“There is a strong desire among consumers to change their lifestyles for the
better. Health is the area consumers across the globe would like to change the
most — and it’s also the area where global consumers have made the most changes
in the past year; perhaps unsurprisingly, given the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
The meat-free conundrum
Influencing sustainable consumer behaviors … how’s that going?
Read the latest Sociocultural Trend Tracker research from our Brands for Good collaboratory and The Harris Poll — which examines consumer progress in adopting more sustainable behaviors, as well as brand trust scores during this unprecedented confluence of societal crises.
According to the research, consumers’ changes to become healthier center on diet
and exercise — to have a better quality of life, both physically and mentally,
while preventing illness. Eating healthy and nutritious food, spending time with
family and friends, preparing meals at home, eating locally grown foods and
spending time in nature are all mentioned as aspirations.
All generations believe we need to consume less resources overall, in the name
of ensuring the health of the planet for future generations. And that includes
eating less meat.
Thanks to a range of factors — including land clearance for pastures,
animal-feed production and the methane produced by cows and sheep — meat and
dairy production accounts for around 14.5
percent of global greenhouse gas
emissions. Going without meat could have a big impact on averting a climate
Consumer interest continues to grow
According to the GlobeScan research, as many as 40 percent of consumers across
the world say they would choose a plant-based meat substitute if price and taste
remain the same. This is backed by the steadily growing market for plant-based
— which is set to grow by almost nine percent a
and be worth $38.4 billion by 2025.
Since Swedish burger chain MAX
launched its Delifresh plant-based burger four years ago, sales have grown
Last April, shares of US plant-based meat brand Beyond
Meat jumped 49 percent, thanks to rising
widespread consumer interest in plant-based foods and a high-profile partnership
with Starbucks. A joint venture
with PepsiCo saw shares rise
again earlier this year.
While most meat eaters globally still prefer real meat to alternatives made from
plants, as many as four in ten say they’d choose a plant-based substitute if
price and taste remain the same. In fact, a majority of consumers in seven of 27
nations surveyed — including Argentina, Brazil, China, India,
Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam — say they would prefer plant-based
alternatives to real meat. Interestingly, most of these countries are heavy
meat-eating nations that devote plenty of resources to its production every
Taste is everything, according to Joe Lam, Impossible’s Director of Consumer
Insights and Analytics. Most consumers want to eat better, and they have a lot
of solutions to do that — whether just increasing fruit or veg in their diet or
reducing their meat consumption, he says. But when it comes to cutting out meat,
trying meat alternatives is tough, “because you’re trading off on taste.”
“Consumers describe the existing solutions as ‘cardboard hockey pucks’,” Lam
told Sustainable Brands™. “The bar is so low; that for a company like
Impossible to come along and say, ‘We taste exactly like meat’ — people are
super skeptical, but curious. Once they do try it, their mind is blown because
it’s broken that low bar assumption of taste.
“There are also consumers that actually think giving up meat isn’t healthy. We
hear it a lot: ‘A meal without meat is not a meal’.”
Brands are paying attention
Alongside new players such as Beyond and Impossible, more and more global
brands, manufacturers and retailers are helping to connect the dots for
consumers when it comes to the nutritional and environmental benefits of walking
away from meat.
In addition to being the world’s largest home furnishings retailer,
IKEA operates what might be the
world’s largest self-serve cafeteria. In November, the company committed to
ensure that 50 percent of the
served in its restaurants will be plant-based, and 80 percent to be non-red
meat, by 2025. It has said it plans to make healthy and sustainable choices the
most desirable options, by demonstrating that plant-based food can be really
delicious — the new
a plant ball, is giving the company’s popular Swedish meatball a run for its
money. It has just 4 percent of the climate footprint of the traditional
meatball “without compromising on taste and texture,” according to the company.
Consumer goods giant Unilever
has also been expanding its plant-based meat and dairy alternatives
In 2018, it bought The Vegetarian
and has since introduced the brand into 30 countries. It now supplies Burger
King’s Plant-Based Whopper across Europe, the Middle East and
Africa. Meanwhile, the first vegan
Magnum bar has picked up
plenty of plaudits; as has Hellmann’s Vegan
and Ben & Jerry’s Coconutterly Caramel’d dairy-free ice
cream. The company’s €85
in a foods innovation centre in the Netherlands will no doubt see its
meat-alternatives business continue to grow in the coming years.
Snack food and beverage giant PepsiCo has also seized the
“The desire for plant-based protein will only continue to grow as does consumer
demand for more nutritious, environmentally conscious products,” Ram
Krishnan, the firm’s Global Chief Commercial Officer told SB. He points to
studies showing that 47 percent of
consume or are open to consuming plant-based meat; and nearly 65 percent of Gen
meat substitutes appealing, he adds.
Growing demand = gigantic opportunity
It is these market trends that encouraged PepsiCo to enter into its new joint
venture with Beyond Meat to “unlock new product lines that will inspire positive
choices.” The so-called PLANeT
will leverage Beyond Meat’s technology in plant-based protein development
and PepsiCo’s commercial clout, to create and scale plant-based protein snacks
and beverages. PepsiCo already has products such as Sabra Snack Cups,
Alvalle ready-to-drink gazpacho, Evolve and Off the Eaten Path
snacks. The deal with Beyond is expected to see this line expanded.
“Health-minded and environmentally conscious purchasing continues to be an
enduring food and beverage trend,” Krishnan says. “I feel confident the interest
in plant-based offerings will only increase; and that consumer demand will
encourage new, affordable and accessible meat-free offerings to the marketplace
over the next ten years.”
As the GlobeScan research shows, the wider public might still need convincing of
the health, nutrition and environmental benefits of changing well-established
habits. As with most things, money talks, Lam says: “Taste is super important;
but if you’re trying to get a global population to shift, price is everything.”
Impossible recently announced two price
cuts — first, in the food service sector; and then, in retail.
“As we lower our price, it’ll open the market up to consumers of non-organic
grass-fed beef. Initially, there’s enough curiosity in the product for people to
try it, even if it’s really high price. But price really becomes a factor during
the repeat process and building that habit-forming behavior.”
The most important thing brands can do is create products that do not require
huge behavior change, Lam asserts:
“We do what we do, and we like what we like. Changing that is really hard. The
beauty of the Impossible burger is that we just give them what they like, but
without the environmental impact.”
Clearly, the appetite is there for a shift away from meat-based diets — which
is good news for addressing a range of healthcare issues, as well as the climate
crisis. But business has a critical role to play, Coulter says:
“Brands must continue to innovate and invest — to make it affordable,
accessible and delightful for people to make the change easy and permanent.”