Beyond Meat: Looking Ahead At Plant-Based Food Trends

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More and more, consumers are shifting towards plant-based eating, whether by eating vegan, or simply cutting meat out of any given meal. In fact, a good deal of research is indicating that consumers are most interested in reducing their meat consumption but not necessarily cutting it out altogether. According to a new study from Datassential, While about 1% of people identify as veg today, only about 2% want to identify that way in the future. By comparison, about 71% of people identify as meat-eaters today and only 55% want to identify that way in the future.

With numbers showing that there is a trend towards meat limitation rather than elimination, the reasons are perhaps not surprisingly oriented towards health and nutrition. 31% of consumers believe meat is “no longer essential to the human diet,” however, the main reason that consumers continue to consume it are protein and taste. Based on this, competing effectively with meat will require that plant-based foods hit those two targets, and change people’s perception in the process: 50% of people are concerned about their protein intake if they were to go meatless, and 44% of consumers fail to limit their meat consumption due to taste.

The study notes that people “don’t yet trust” plant-based foods, but one new avenue to get people to reduce their farmed meat consumption is through cellular agriculture — also known as lab meat, in-vitro meat, or clean meat. About 25% of consumers are interested in cellular meat, milk, and eggs, with social welfare and health being key motivators. Interestingly, the study notes that people who want cellular agriculture are also the same people who want natural foods and non-GMO foods. This seems counterintuitive, the researchers found that this is because their motivation comes down to social good. Still, cellular agriculture struggles to gain traction, perhaps because it’s not yet widely available: only 10% of people are familiar with it, and the majority of those people (37%) are “tech enthusiasts.”

For animal advocates, some of this may be hard to swallow: while we may want people to eliminate animals from their diet altogether, helping people to limit their meat consumption may yield better results. If taste and health are the pillars of people’s choices, and the concept of social good can reinforce these, there is a great deal of potential to make serious gains in reducing the amount of people relying on meat that came from sentient beings.

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