With the popularity of plant-based diets increasing, innovation in the industry is also rising. Here we take a look at some of the interesting plant-based trends that are set to change the face of the market.
A Flexitarian Future
Plant-based diet trends can be fickle. One minute, the latest product is speeding off the shelves, and the next it’s yesterday’s news. So, to fix your place in the market, your product needs to meet the expectations of the modern consumer.
In today’s world of plant-based products, this means catering for the requirements of a wide range of consumers – not just vegans and vegetarians, but flexitarians as well. This group consists of those who are reducing animal proteins from their diets, but still eat meat at times. A recent survey found that one in four people now identify as flexitarian, making this the most important target group for plant-based products.
Research suggests that these consumers particularly value taste, convenience, health, and familiarity when choosing plant-based products. What’s more, they don’t want to feel like they’re missing out and value indulgence. Our research also identified that nostalgia for comfort food and the need for indulgence are fuelling plant-based behaviors, while budgets, practicality, and pleasure are the new drivers in meat-free consumers. So, here are some top trends which look set to meet all these requirements and more.
1. More Meat Alternatives
Plant-based diet trends have long included options for those seeking meat alternatives. However, now there's a greater array of high-quality choices than ever. Demand from flexitarians has set the quality bar high. As they continue to eat meat occasionally, they compare substitutes more closely to the genuine article.
The demand for meat alternatives is also increasing, as campaigns such as Meat-free Monday and Veganuary have raised the awareness and popularity of finding meat substitutes. In addition, a recent study found that over 25% of UK adults are eating less meat to save money, as a result of the economic situation.
High-quality options now include convincing alternatives to bacon – the craving that haunts many a plant-based diet devotee. Packed with nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B12, and iron, and brimming with flavor, these are likely to appeal to even the most discerning flexitarian. However, if the aroma doesn't quite convince, a bacon-scented patch has even been developed to meet consumer needs.
Other meaty plant-based options include jackfruit products, which mimic the taste and texture of pulled pork, as well as increasingly convincing sausage, burger, and chicken alternatives. These are made from ingredients such as soy, peas, beans, mushrooms, and wheat protein. In fact, the popularity of this plant-based diet trend has hit the mainstream, with many supermarkets bringing out own-brand meaty plant-based alternatives.
2. Seafood Substitutes
While plant-based seafood substitutes are nothing new, this sector is predicted to be an upcoming trend to watch. With the need to find an alternative to rapidly depleting global fish stocks, a wide selection of convincing plant-based fish alternatives is now hitting the shelves.
Seafood alternatives springing up include substitutes for:
- Whole-cut salmon
- Crab cakes
Indeed, where innovation is concerned, the sky (or the sea) is the limit in the plant-based seafood arena.
Interestingly, possible plant-based seafood ingredients include banana blossom, a flower with a flaky texture that offers a convincing fish alternative, alongside mushroom, jackfruit, and seaweed. In fact, seaweed products, packed with nutrients including iodine, magnesium, calcium, and fiber, are also predicted as a healthy future trend.
3. Extra Egg Options
Gone are the days when vegans had limited options when looking for egg substitutes.
A growing number of companies, such as JUST Egg, are introducing versatile egg alternatives. Whether you need an egg substitute for baking, fancy a plant-based scrambled egg, or even want a whole egg that looks just like a conventional egg, you’re in luck. The recently introduced Wundereggs are claimed to be the first ever ready-to-eat boiled eggs, and are made using mostly cashews and almonds.
This plant-based trend also includes a rising number of convincing alternatives to conventional egg-based products, such as mayonnaise and meringues. Amazingly, other ingredients used to dish up these innovative egg-free substitutes range from mung bean protein to aquafaba and tofu.
4. Clean Labels
Another plant-based trend to watch is the rising demand for products with fewer and only natural ingredients. Consumers are increasingly being put off by long and complex lists of ingredients. Instead, they prefer ‘clean label’ products – those that are healthy and free from artificial additives and preservatives.
This may be a challenge for some brands, as they can rely on additives to achieve the required stability and texture in their products. For example, some experts have identified that methylcellulose, used as a binder and thickener in meat substitutes, has become unpopular as it’s not a naturally occurring compound. A promising alternative is citrus fiber, a by-product of juice processing, which is more likely to appeal to the growing numbers of health-conscious consumers.
5. A Sustainable Milk Alternative
Perhaps one of the most surprising possible plant-based trends is in the field of dairy alternatives. This comes in the form of potato milk, which has joined the ranks of soya, almond, and oat dairy substitute options, and has a lot of appealing qualities to offer.
For example, growing potatoes is considerably better for the environment than dairy farming, and it takes 50% less land to grow them than oats – another source of dairy-free milk. Each year, people throw away three billion pounds of spuds – enough for six billion people – making these one of the most wasted food items of all. So, a product like potato milk could help to reduce this wastage.
Innovative Swedish brand DUG is now offering three tasty varieties of potato milk – original, barista, and unsweetened versions. Free from lactose, soy, gluten, and nuts, and nutrient-rich, this plant-based product also looks set to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
If this is an area you need assistance with, we can help. We have tested many ‘clean recipe’ product initiatives, and have the experience and expertise to guide you through this process to achieve success.
6. A Wider Choice of Sweet Treats
A rising trend in vegan and plant-based sweet treats no doubt reflects the increasing demand for plant-based comfort foods and a need for indulgence.
This includes a boom in plant-based ice cream. A recent report predicted that the global vegan ice cream market will hit £846.6 million by 2029, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.8%. There's now a wide range of high-quality dairy-free ice cream options on the market. For example, Booja-Booja offers luxury, vegan-friendly, organic options made with cashew nuts, and sweetened with agave or coconut syrup. In fact, this plant-based diet trend has entered the mainstream, with supermarket brands, including Marks & Spencer, Co-op, Asda, Tesco, Aldi, and Morrisons, providing vegan options.
Plant-based chocolate is also contributing to this trend, with an ever-increasing variety of vegan chocolate becoming available. For example, NOMO offers a range of chocolate bars, with flavors including Caramel & Sea Salt, and Chocolate Orange Crunch.
7. A Multitude of Ready Meals
With people living busy lives, a rising trend in plant-based ready meals is undoubtedly meeting consumer expectations for convenience and practicality.
A 2021 study revealed that one in five ready meals on offer were plant based or vegetarian, and there'd been a 50% increase in plant-based meals since 2018. The study also found plant-based ready meals were cheaper per portion than meat versions at seven out of ten chains. So, this trend caters for consumers seeking budget-friendly options as well.
Many brands are also targeting the increasing consumer expectation for new taste sensations, with more world food ready meal options. This is reflected in the availability of plant-based choices such as Thai green curry, by Lazy Vegan, and many supermarkets offering vegan own-brand ready meals, such as Asda’s Sweet Potato Katsu Curry.
Innovation Meets Demand
So, with these plant-based trends and more on the rise, there's no shortage of innovation set to meet demand and drive the market forward through the next decade and beyond. However, in this ever-changing industry, you need expert advice to ensure your new products have every chance of success.
While achieving success with plant-based food innovation is not easy, see our ‘roadmap for successful plant-based innovations’, in our whitepaper, for some helpful inspiration and guidance, to give you a head start.