Pandemic drives healthy eating plant-based snacks trend

Pandemic drives healthy eating plant-based snacks trend

More British consumers are turning to healthier snacks and plant-based foods – many for the very first time – rather than choose old favourites, research from Olam Cocoa has revealed.

According to the cocoa producer, lockdown has led to a significant change in the nation’s food habits, meaning Britons are not just snacking more than they were before the pandemic, but also being much more health conscious (source: poll of 2,003 UK adults conducted in August 2020 by Opinium on behalf of Olam Cocoa).

The findings indicate:

  • More than half of respondents (55%) say an indulgent treat has helped to boost their mood during lockdown, and 4 in 10 (39%) admit to snacking more frequently since Covid-19 restrictions began.
  • A third (36%) also say they have become more health conscious since the start of the pandemic and 22% of consumers say they look for confectionery, bakery or snacks with low sugar, salt or fat. This is especially true of younger people aged 18-34 who are both the biggest snackers and the most likely to have become more concerned about their health since the start of lockdown (45%).
  • 1 in 5 consumers (22%) say they have consumed more plant-based products since the start of lockdown – rising to 37% among 18-34 year-olds – and 45% are open to trying them.
  • Health concerns were the number one reason (48%), followed by the environment (45%). This growth is driven in part by consumers who were previously slow adopters. Only 8% of male consumers say they always purchased plant-based food pre-lockdown, yet many more – almost a third (31%) – say they have purchased dairy-free alternatives since lockdown restrictions were first introduced.
  • Milk alternatives were the most popular plant-based purchase with almost half of respondents (44%) saying they had bought one during lockdown.
  • Looking to the future, plant-based converts were most excited to try dairy-free ice cream, with dairy-free chocolate not far behind. But although the appetite is there, barriers remain.
  • While price remains the biggest deterrent to purchasing plant-based food, the research also revealed that concerns about taste, texture and limited ranges were still putting some consumers off from adding dairy-free alternatives to their baskets.

Wouter Stomph, ingredient development and innovation expert at Olam Cocoa, said food manufacturers will have to innovate quickly to seize the market opportunity and make products more widely available. More importantly, they must ensure products’ “taste and texture pass muster with their discerning consumers”.

Stomph added: “This isn’t without challenges. For example, we’re seeing growing interest in dairy-free ice cream alternatives, but the creamy texture can be difficult to replicate. Recently, we’ve been working with food companies to develop alternatives that use cocoa ingredients to add flavour and creaminess to plant-based ice creams. Finding the perfect match isn’t easy as there is so much variation – one almond milk can have a completely different taste and texture to another, which is why we’ve spent the past year developing tools to categorise and match dairy alternatives by their flavour attributes.”

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