Plant based balance
Some people say, “give the customers what they want.” But to Steve Jobs that wasn’t necessarily the approach to take. His/our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.
A good trick in itself as I think it was Henry Ford who once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘a faster horse!'” People being people, don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
And so it is with the phrase plant based. Its overuse puts it at risk of losing some of its better-for-you significance with consumers, asserts the market research firm Mintel.
In Mintel’s report on the subject, plant-based claims were said to have an “ambiguous nature.” Mintel points to media reports questioning the health of plant-based alternatives to animal-derived beef burgers.
There’s no need to panic however as the health halo surrounding plant-based products does have room to expand.
By creating formulations focusing on what consumers want when choosing healthy foods, such as low in fat, salt and sugar, plant-based products have an opportunity to remain relevant to the market in the long term.
Mintel arrived at this conclusion based on the findings from several of its recent reports. In its 2020 Better-for-You Eating Trends Market Report, the firm found, only one in five US consumers who consider themselves to eat healthy agree plant-based is a priority for them when shopping. Nutrition, it seems, is a priority. Another study from Mintel found a quarter of US consumers who eat plant-based protein do not consider processed meat alternatives to be healthier than real meat; however, more than half would eat more meat alternatives if they had the same nutritional profile as meat.
Many would put forward that a plant based diet emphasises whole plant foods as the centrepiece of meals and snacks. Mintel believes companies using concrete terms and ingredients to orient plant-derived products toward the health and wellness demands of consumers, will find a “robust opportunity” to appeal to shoppers.
In truth, plant-based looks different from day to day, week to week. Despite the definition above, many people still assume “plant based” to be vegan. Here’s the thing: to drive consumer adoption for plant-based, products will need to taste great and smell appetising. As more food becomes plant-based, there will be greater demand for the colours, flavours and scents that consumers have grown accustomed to.
The hard realisation is that consumers are not willing to trade off taste for health and nutrition.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
Keep in touch via email: [email protected] Twitter: @foodanddrinktec or LinkedIn: Food & Drink Technology magazine.