What do flexitarians want from plant-based foods?

Beneo’s latest plant-based consumer survey (2) shows that one in four consumers globally now call themselves flexitarians. Understanding the key motivations and expectations of their plant-based purchasing is vital for product development and success in a market that is rapidly growing.

So, what do flexitarians want from different plant-based categories? The top drivers for flexitarian purchasing for meat alternatives (3) include bringing variety to the consumer’s diet, being healthy and helping them take care of their body. Animal welfare is also a strong motivator. Similarly, for flexitarians purchasing dairy alternatives (4), taking care of their body is a key driver, as is the natural origins of the ingredients used in the product, as well as supporting a well-balanced diet. Finally, for flexitarians looking to purchase plant-based bakery and sweets (5), the top drivers are that the ingredients used are natural, that they help consumers take care of their bodies and that they bring variety to their diet. Not surprisingly, for all the categories, the plant-based alternative’s taste is also key for repeat purchase.

Preferred nutritional claims

Alongside these key motivators that are encouraging flexitarian repeat-purchasing of plant-based products, a range of nutritional claims are also proving popular. Beneo’s plant-based survey6 shows that when it comes to meat alternatives, the top claim is ‘natural ingredients’, followed by ‘low in fat’, ‘low environmental impact’ and ‘additive-free’. For dairy plant-based alternative purchasing the top claim is again ‘natural ingredients’, but this is followed by ‘easy-to-digest’, ‘additive free’ and ‘plant-based’. For plant-based bakery and sweets, ‘natural ingredients’ remains the primary claim for flexitarians, followed by ‘low in sugar’, ‘low in fat’ and ‘low environmental impact’.

What do flexitarians want from plant-based foods?

Image: Beneo

Sustainably derived protein sources

Beneo’s plant-based survey (7) also shows that globally three out of every four consumers are concerned about climate change, the environment and animal welfare. For all plant-based applications, delivering a better nutritional and more sustainable profile is crucial. Therefore, as consumers demand more sustainable protein sources, the prediction that by 2027 three out of four alternative proteins will be vegetal (8) is no big surprise.

Although there are many sources of plant protein, wheat is proving to be one of the most popular,

largely thanks to its clean, neutral taste. In fact, the worldwide wheat protein industry is expected to reach £2.2 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of +5% from 2021 (9).

Following the launch of Beneo’s BeneoPro W-Tex textured wheat protein ingredient a few years ago, the range has now been expanded to enable producers to meet consumer for more adventurous plant-based recipes. Thanks to meat alternative’s unique texture and an alveolar structure (10), meat-free juicy products with a meaty texture and a granular, fibrous structure can be created. Also, 95% of the wheat used to create the range is sourced from Belgium, France and Germany.

Alongside wheat protein, pulses are also growing in popularity, with pea and faba bean considered the rising star ingredients of new product launches worldwide, having achieved a CAGR of 20% between 2016-21 (11).

Beneo recently announced a €50 million investment in a new pulse processing site to produce protein rich pulse ingredients, focusing initially on protein concentrate and starch-rich flour from faba bean. These will be used for protein-enrichment and texture improvement in meat and dairy alternatives, as well as bakery and cereals. Beneo strives to source faba beans at Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) Gold level from German farmers and the production process has been chosen for its low energy consumption in comparison to alternative processes.

Beneo’s research shows that overall, flexitarian consumers will repeat buy foods that take care of their body, provide variety to their diet and deliver on taste. Thanks to the product development work of functional ingredient’s providers such as Beneo there are now a range of options for producers to meet these demands.

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