After years of considering vegans a small, niche part of the market, food and beverage brands are adapting to a trend that shows no sign of slowing down—plant-based nourishment. A study by BIS Research reports that the global plant-based food and beverage alternatives market is expected to reach $80.43 billion by 2024, rising at a CAGR of 13.82% from 2019 to 2024.
Last week, Dublin made headlines for being awarded TripAdvisor’s most vegan-friendly city in the world due to having the highest percentage of vegan-friendly restaurants (21.2% of Dublin restaurants). While veganism continues to grow in popularity, the mainstream success of the plant-based trend is owed to its inclusive approach. It sits, in fact, at the intersection of several cultural shifts: climate justice, wellness culture, and an increased consumer desire for transparency. With looming reports on climate change outlining the meat and dairy industry’s role in the problem or studies linking red-meat consumption to cancer, many people have reacted by changing the way they eat. People are turning to plant-based alternatives to satiate their increasing desire to feel healthy, ethical, and informed about their food and drink choices.
According to a report by Nestlé, 87% of Americans, both vegans, and meat-eaters are incorporating plant-based protein into their diets, with two-thirds of them doing so one or more times a week. This month, Oprah continues to inspire fans to join her in eating one plant-based meal a day. It’s the ideal solution for people who don’t want to “give up everything they’ve been eating their whole life in one day,” she says. This sentiment is a guiding principle for plant-powered brand Alpro, which launched a new range of Greek-Style yogurt pots last month. They say a plant-based diet isn’t defined by what it excludes, and rather encourage people to focus on building their meals around plants.
Innovation in the plant-based space is also blooming. Marks & Spencer’s launched Plant Kitchen last December and Irish brand, Strong Roots, continues to expand its range. Goodfellas now offers vegan frozen pizzas and Ben and Jerry’s boasts 12 flavours of non-dairy ice-cream. Investment is pouring into plant-based meat and dairy alternatives as technology continues to improve their taste and texture. The famous ‘bleeding’ (vegan) Beyond Burger hit shelves in Tesco this summer and Burger King is currently trialling an Impossible Whopper in Ireland. Even Kraft Heinz, recently invested $3.5 million in New Culture, a start-up that’s honing dairy-free mozzarella.
With the plant-based trend ripe for the picking, it is important for brands to first understand which of the various plant-based consumers they should be targeting. Winning with the health and fitness buffs will be a different challenge than tempting adventurous foodies. The good news is that the plant-based trend is flexible enough to suit a variety of entry points for brands whether they want to lead with health, taste, or a value-based stance.