Health concerns drive plant-based meat and dairy consumption, Euromonitor survey finds
Now in its second year, the global industry survey found that consumer motivations for purchasing plant-based meat alternatives remained largely unchanged between 2021 and 2022.
"Since the 2021 edition, the COVID-19 pandemic has receded in many peoples’ minds due to factors such as vaccination rates, and an easing of restrictions, which might have meant health concerns had diminished," wrote Tom Rees, industry manager at Euromonitor International, but, "It is clear that health remains the primary driver for those consuming plant-based meat alternatives," he continued.
When asked, "What are some of the reasons why you choose processed plant-based meat alternatives?" 37% of consumers surveyed that they consume these products to 'feel healthier' (unchanged from 2021 survey results) and 25% do so to 'avoid long-term health risks' (also unchanged from 2021 findings).
"These are once again the top two responses, ahead of wanting to reduce environmental impact (23%) and promoting animal welfare (20%)," noted Rees.
"However, while health concerns are clearly prominent, the number of consumers choosing plant-based for the environment and for animal welfare is slowly growing, while health as a motivator has stayed static year-on-year."
Plant-based dairy motivators
New to the survey this year was investigating the top reasons why consumers choose to consume plant-based dairy, and the responses largely mirrored plant-based meat (i.e. health and desire to feel healthier) but with more detail around certain health concerns (e.g. digestion, sugar intake, weight gain).
"Health concerns regarding consumption of processed red meat (such as obesity, heart disease, even cancer) are not the same as for animal dairy consumption... the latter is associated in many consumers’ minds with skin complaints, digestion problems, weight gain, allergies, and even concerns with GMO feed in the food chain," said Rees.
According to the survey, when asked, "What are some of the reasons why you consume plant-based dairy alternatives?” nearly 40% said they did so "to feel healthier" followed by "I digest them better" and "to reduce sugar intake."
Reducing their impact on the environment and animal welfare came in as the last two reasons with 16% and 14% of consumers, respectively, citing these factors as their top reason for consuming plant-based dairy alternatives.
However, Rees predicts that consumer motivations could be shifting as more shoppers consider the environmental and animal welfare impact of dairy farming.
Non-plant-based meat and dairy alternative eaters
But what about consumers who don't consume plant-based meat and their reasoning for not doing so?
Euromonitor asked non-plant-based meat eaters why they choose not to consume plant-based meat and dairy alternatives in its survey as well and found taste played a huge role.
"For both plant-based meat and plant-based dairy, not enjoying the taste (re)emerges as the most likely reason," said Rees.
However, objection to the taste of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives has diminished slightly between 2021 and 2022, noted Rees.
In 2022, 28.8% of non-plant-based-meat eaters and 30.4% of non-plant-based dairy eaters cited not enjoying the taste as their primary reason for not consuming such products. These numbers were slightly down from 2021 when 32.3% of respondents stated that they did not like the taste of plant-based meat alternatives.
"This objection appears to be diminishing over time, a testament to product development and improving flavor due to efforts by producers as the category becomes increasingly established," said Rees.
Health halo of plant-based meat and dairy?
As for whether or not consumers will continue to purchase plant-based meat and dairy alternatives based on health concerns especially as consumers become more wary of the processed nature of certain products and general trend towards more 'natural' product with fewer and simpler ingredients, Rees commented:
"It is clear that, for now at least, health concerns remain the chief motivator for choosing plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy... producers may face a future in which simply adding 'plant-based' to their labels is not enough to convince potential consumers that buying such products is good for their health."