Nielsen: What will drive repeat purchase behavior of plant-based meat alternatives?

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Availability and access aren't the issue to consumer repeat purchase behavior; brands need to educate consumers on why their product is a better alternative to meat, says Nielsen. Photo: Beyond Meat
Availability and access aren't the issue to consumer repeat purchase behavior; brands need to educate consumers on why their product is a better alternative to meat, says Nielsen. Photo: Beyond Meat

Related tags: plant-based meat, Nielsen

Getting consumers to try trendy plant-based meat alternatives is a relatively low hurdle compared to encouraging long-term adoption of these products, which requires more convincing on the part of brands, says Nielsen, noting that the sector is "ripe with opportunity, but poised for scrutiny."

"Consumers will choose what they trust and believe in. When it comes to protein options today, product availability and access aren’t the issue,"​ said Nielsen in an August 5 insight report​. For example, newer products such as the Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage​ can now be found in thousands of conventional retail stores coast to coast.

Additionally, in the US, 15% of all food and beverage sales come from products that meet a plant-based diet. Products that contain a plant protein base are particularly hot with spelt, lentil, and seitan generating annual sales of $620m for the 52 weeks ending May 25, 2019, according to Nielsen sales data.

"With such mainstream accessibility to alternative proteins, consumers won’t just need awareness, they need to be convinced to continue to buy. Brands need to clearly and consistently demonstrate why their product best fits the lifestyle and health aspirations of the end user,"​ noted Nielsen. 

'The space for meat substitutes is ripe with opportunity but poised for scrutiny'

According to Nielsen, the most effective way to convince shoppers to regularly buy plant-based meat alternatives rather than making a one-off purchase is to promote their better-for-you attributes and sell the sustainability story. 

"It sounds simple, yet 39% of products that meet a plant-based diet do not specify being clean, simple, sustainable or free from artificial ingredients on product labels,"​ Nielsen said. 

However, plant-based meat alternatives brands have the challenge of overcoming the inherently processed nature of their products which can contain as many as 15 to 20 ingredients. 

To help tackle this processed image, plant-based meat alternative brands must "reassure consumers of the good that’s gone into their products in order to maintain trust and drive repeat purchasing," ​argued Nielsen.

"The consumer will want to be able to define what’s in that meat alternative burger, or understand exactly what makes it a healthier or better choice. In the same way margarine (down -22.5% in annual sales), sucralose (-2.6%) and soy milk (-11.4%) have had to fight for their keep as 'alternatives,' the space for meat substitutes is ripe with opportunity but poised for scrutiny," ​noted Nielsen. 

Targeting meat reducers with plant-based products

Alignment with positive social and environmental action is another potentially strong strategy to ensure growth, through repeat purchases, of the plant-based meat alternative market, Nielsen pointed out.

 

Nielsen_infographic

"One area to explore is the impact of livestock on climate change. Among Americans interested in the impact of livestock on climate change, 61% of those surveyed say they would reduce their meat consumption, 43% would replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein alternatives and 22% would become vegetarian or vegan in order to effect positive change. When appropriately positioned, consumers will drive major personal change to contribute to meaningful social impact," ​Nielsen added. 

Its comments came as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)​, issued a report highlighting the impact of food production on climate change.

According to the report, the food industry is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Read a summary HERE​.

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