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Plant-Based Eating is Here to Stay

April 29, 2019

When does a trend become mainstream? Is it the number of people on the bandwagon, the longevity of the trend, or globalization? Regardless of how it’s measured, the numbers speak for themselves: plant-based eating can no longer be considered a trend, whether that’s based on sales volume, worldwide acceptance, or a permanent shift in consumer behavior and attitude.

Plant-Based Eating Growth By the Numbers

In November, 2018 DuPont Nutrition & Health released a report on plant-based eating in which they surveyed the eating habits of 1,000 U.S. consumers. The study found that 52% of U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods and beverages, and that almost 60% of respondents said their change to plant-based alternatives was “permanent or they hoped it was permanent.” That massive 52% of U.S. consumers who are changing their diet to include more plant-based eating actually pales in comparison to global numbers; the same report claims that nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers worldwide are eating more plant-based foods. Greg Paul of DuPont is quoted as saying, “There is a seismic shift occurring in eating habits globally … our research reveals that for most consumers, this has moved beyond experimentation into a permanent change brought on by health, lifestyle and social factors.”

While plant-based eating is not exactly the same thing as vegan eating, they do have much in common, including their growth. For example, there’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. in the last three years (from 1% to 6%), a 350% increase in people identifying as vegans in the UK over the last decade, and research predicts that China’s vegan market will grow more than 17% between 2015 and 2020.

Consumers also reported that taste was the #1 barrier to increasing their plant-based eating habits by an even greater amount. 

New Product Launch Growth

Companies are responding to this dramatic shift in plant-based eating habits. Innova Market Insights data shows that the number of new food and beverage launches making plant-based claims in the U.S. saw a 54% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2013 to 2017. Their data also showed a 300% increase in plant-protein claims across all foods and beverages.

The global dairy alternatives market is one of the largest in the plant-based eating space. It is expected to reach nearly $30 billion in annual sales by 2023, which is a CAGR of 11.4%. Plant-based milks make up nearly half that segment, of which the almond milk segment is the fastest growing. According to an article in Supermarket News, 58% of U.S. adults drink non-dairy milk. The same article, by the way, reports that “36% of consumers buy plant-based meats.”

Plant Proteins and the Importance of Taste

As diets shift, so do attitudes. According to a report by the International Food Information Council, 21% of all Americans claim to have an improved opinion about the healthfulness of plant proteins, and 69% are trying to incorporate more into their eating habits. Says Lesley Nicholson, marketing manager for Archer Daniels Midland, “The flexitarian/vegetarian trend is growing. People want more protein while reducing the amount of animal protein in their diets.”

Despite this acceleration of plant proteins, consumers don’t want to compromise when it comes to taste. Mintel reports that “taste is the top reason U.S. adults who eat plant-based proteins do so (52%), outranking concerns over diet (10%), animal protection (11%) the environment (13%) and even health (39%).” Maintaining taste profiles and mouthfeel in plant-based applications, as well as better-for-you foods and beverages, can be challenging. Fortunately, Edlong flavor scientists are up to that challenge. Our flavor library includes more than 250 dairy-free and vegan flavors that can deliver authentic taste and the natural mouthfeel inherent in dairy that is often missing in plant-based products. Our flavors provide functional benefits to add richness and indulgence where it’s missing, and mask the off-notes often associated with plant proteins. Demand for plant-based eating is here to stay. Edlong flavors can play a significant role in ensuring which plant-products are here to stay too, by helping make them delicious.