“Consumers abandon” plant-based meat category citing taste, nutrition, price concerns, Mintel finds

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - 	Aamulya
Image Credit: Getty Images - Aamulya

Related tags Mintel plant-based meat Nutrition

Between recent acquisition and slumping unit sales, the plant-based meat alternative (PBMA) market faces headwinds as consumers shift to less expensive proteins in the face of economic pressure, though all might not be lost for the category, Mintel shared in its Plant-Based Protein executive summary.

PBMA sales have slid from their peak in 2020 as consumers abandon the category in favor of less expensive protein options. The category continues to struggle with negative perceptions even among those who follow a reduced meat diet,​” Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink reports at Mintel shared. “Yet silver linings still exist, the frozen PBMA category remains relatively resilient and new product innovation may expand the market by bringing PBMAs into new consumption occasions. Brands must address consumers’ concerns around product taste, nutrition, and price in order to achieve real market growth.​” 

Consumers return to what they know: animal-based meat

PBMA total sales are estimated to be worth $1.46bn for 2023 and forecasted to reach $1.801bn in 2028, with a worst-case prediction of $995m and $2.6bn for a best-case prediction, according to Circana InfoScan Reviews and Mintel data.

Budget-conscious consumer also are less likely to take risks in shopping. Only 20% of consumers followed a reduced meat diet in 2023, with 53% of consumers claiming inflation makes them less likely to try new foods, such as plant-based options, Mintel found.

When it comes to dietary preferences, consumers are less likely to say that they are flexitarians, vegetarians, or vegans, based on Kantar Profiles and Mintel data. In 2023, 8% of consumers said they were flexitarians, 4% were vegetarians, and 2% were vegan, as opposed to 10%, 5%, and 4%, respectively, in 2022. Additionally, consumers who stated that they ascribe to a reduced meat diet dropped to 18% in 2023 from 21% last year.

In a select all-that-apply questionnaire of over 1,400 adults, Mintel found 48% of total consumers said taste and flavor were major concerns, 35% said meat was a better source of nutrition, and 34% said that they were too expensive. Rounding out the top five reasons, 24% of consumers also cited texture concerns, and 21% said that the products are too processed.

Clean label, frozen product innovation might be an opportunity to the market

The PBMA market might be able to turn around recent declines with new product launches, especially for frozen food and clean label innovation, Mintel found.

One way that consumers might engage the category again is through combating the perception that these products are too produced, which 30% of flexitarians cite as their reason for not purchasing PBMA products, Mintel stated. In the report, Mintel shared how Sweet Earth's Mindful Chik'N, Hungry Planet's Grilled Strips, Jack & Annie's Classic Jack Meatballs, and My Bacon's Original Recipe Farm-Grown Meatless Mycelium each tap into this cleaner label trend, which each feature approximately ten food ingredients and callout natural and health claims.

While refrigerated products were the largest percentage of launches in 2021, frozen and shelf-stable products have increased. In 2022, 51% of product launches were frozen, 29% chilled, and 20% shelf-stable, compared to 40% frozen, 56% chilled, and 4% shelf-stable in 2021. Refrigerated products have not met consumers' expectations and can only support a few brands, so CPG brands should focus on frozen products and shelf-stable products, which will help PBMAs expand into the center of the store, Mintel suggested.

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