Lockdown Faux Meat Consumers became full-fledged, plant-based conversions
If your first time to eat a meatless burger or sausage pie during the global pandemic, you are not alone. And chances are you're not a loner in the fast-growing alternative proteins category.
According to a recent study, you could become a full convert to plant-based foods.
Research from Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest food manufacturers, found that 97% of people who tried their first counterfeit meat products during the Covid-19 public health crisis intend to buy them again.
US consumers cited health, safety and comfort as the main reasons for buying brands like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Dr. Praegers, Lightlife, MorningStar Farms and Gardein.
"Covid created this interesting test window with high potential for the category takeover," said Ana Ferrell, vice president of marketing at ADM. "What we eat has changed in the last six months and that will lead to some exciting innovations and launches in the next 12 to 18 months."
Brands are reacting to the flexibility boom
Americans are not becoming fully vegetarian, anyway not in significant numbers. But more and more people are identifying as flexitarian, a group that Ferrell estimates would make up nearly 70% of the population if a survey were conducted today.
"It's not a consumer segment like it was five years ago," she said of flexitarianism. "It's mainstream. It's a lifestyle."
It is therefore not surprising that large food conglomerates have become aware of Tyson, Perdue, Smithfield and others who have moved into the plant-based meat category and experienced explosive sales during quarantine, a trend that Ferrell is expected to continue.
"When a company hesitated, Covid showed them what they need to know," she said, noting that Millennial and Gen Z fans in particular have helped bring fake meat from boutique health food stores to mega-chains like Walmart, Kroger and Target . as well as digital channels. Restaurant chains like Burger King, Starbucks, KFC and Dunkin introduced the products just as quickly as grocers.
The fake meat we eat
According to ADM, new buyers are flocking to the category and existing fans are consuming more plant-based meat, mostly burgers (preferred by 54% of respondents), sausage (41%), chicken nuggets (41%), and meatballs (38%). In particular, Beyond Meat recently announced the introduction of meatballs to its retail chains. The product will be launched in around 26,000 locations in the fall, and Impossible launched its first pre-made burger patties in around 10,000 supermarkets in August.
Consumers eat plant-based meat at traditional meals (62% for lunch, 61% for dinner, and 45% for breakfast), although around 29% said they choose artificial protein for snacks.
Health, safety come first
When asked why they bought fake meat this year, 54% of new buyers and 42% of existing fans said it was safer than animal protein, and 57% of newbies and 46% of repeat buyers said it was healthier than animal protein Protein.
Your most important purchase criteria are taste, nutrients and protein content, as some companies sniff back and forth in space for "clean" ingredients. "Little or no additives" was not a major concern, nor was price, which is often a high priority in other research.
Consumers are focused on health and wellbeing, as well as transparency and safety in the food supply chain, which Ferrell said benefits plant proteins.
"People view diet as a way to improve health," she said, noting that their quarantine habits may be long-lasting. "Our research shows that many people say they plan to continue preparing their own food after they return to the office."
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