Two-thirds of Americans now admit to buying meat alternatives, according to consumer research conducted by Innova Market Insights. While only 22% purchase from the category on rare occasions, as many as 10% say that they always buy meat alternatives, while a further 36% claim to do so often or sometimes.
The percentage of occasional meat purchasers represent the flexitarians who are choosing the cut down on their meat intake in flavor of a healthier lifestyle. Ethical and environmental concerns are also increasingly influential in this decision-making process and this adds a new consideration to the marketing of meat alternatives.
“Meat substitutes should now carry the right messages for both healthful and mindful consumers, with plant-based diets emerging as the epitome of guilt-free eating,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.
Innovators in this market have certainly recognized the rise of veganism – particularly within younger age groups – and almost three-quarters of new meat substitutes launched in the U.S. in 2018 carried vegan claims. But the need to balance this with flexitarian demands is clear: in earlier research conducted in 2017, only 14% of meat alternatives purchasers named vegetarian/vegan positioning as a factor influencing their purchasing decision, with higher levels of interest in simpler claims related to the naturally healthy formulation.
As far as flexitarians are concerned, there have even been moves to develop hybrid products that combine meat proprieties with vegetables, while some alternatives even “bleed” or sizzle to emulate meat, ideas that would dismay many vegans. With such diverse attitudes in the customer base and no “one size fits all” solution, delivering choice is very much the name of the game.