Plant Based Meat: How to Win the Market Now

Part trend, part environmental solution, part ideological, there are a lot of moving parts in the plant-based meat industry. We’ve seen quick changes in both the offer and demand within the category, and it looks like consumers are waiting for some changes. 

Market Slows Down

In the US, sales in the plant-based meat categories have declined in 2023 by 12%. While US households have been under the growing pressure of inflated grocery prices, this decline has disproportionately impacted the plant-based category. While traditional meats and seafood fell by 6% over the past two years, that decline is much slower than plant-based alternatives.  

Despite a recent decline in sales of plant-based meat products in the US, there is encouraging evidence of growing acceptance for plant-based milk. The 1% increase in dollar sales over the last year and the 44% household penetration reflect a positive transition in consumer preferences, indicating a potential shift towards plant-based alternatives. This shift in consumer behavior suggests a promising future for the plant-based industry, with opportunities for continued growth and innovation. 

Consumer’s Expectations and Attitudes Towards Plant-Based Meats

It seems that the decline of plant-based meat sales is particular to that niche and may be in a unique position to restructure and revamp their product lines and achieve wider success. Understanding consumer’s attitudes is key to building a better and stronger plant-based meat category. 

According to GFI/Morning Consult research from December 2023, 51% of Americans have yet to give plant-based meat a try, some citing taste and price as limitations to try the new food category. With the rise of flexitarian consumers, plant-based meat buyers may be less inclined to risk buying an expensive product that won’t deliver on their expectations for taste, appearance, and texture.  

A survey by FoodNavigator, also showed that US consumers expect “beef but better”. By this, they mean that plant-based alternatives should only have positive flavors and improved nutrition and environmental footprint. 

For some consumers, a plant-based diet can’t be a compromise anymore. While some satisfactory taste and texture may be enough for consumers to try out a new diet or product, a long-time diet change can’t compromise on cravings. As of now, improved products rather than more diverse options may have a bigger impact on consumer behavior. 

This is also an opportunity for brands to focus on other consumer demands. In general, consumers have been pushing for better nutritional values and ingredients lists on foods. They are also more and more receptive to the sustainability of a product and its impact on the environment. 

In addition, a focused marketing effort differentiating a product from its competition through the points highlighted above could convince more consumers to give alternative meats a try. Price alone doesn’t explain the decline in sales for the category over the last year, but has undeniably been a barrier for some consumers to take a leap on their products and try. Some brands could also go as far as coupling that marketing with a promotion for first-time buyers or a taste test in select stores.  

To encourage consumers to try plant-based meats, it is essential for companies to focus on improving the taste and texture of their products, as well as highlighting their nutritional value and sustainability. Marketing efforts that emphasize these aspects, along with promotions and taste tests, could help sway more consumers to give plant-based meats a try. Overall, addressing consumer demands and differentiating products effectively can play a crucial role in revitalizing the plant-based meat industry.  

Learn how Lycored can help you craft efficient solutions for plant-based meat here.