What are consumers looking for in plant-based products?
Sustainability and health are top drivers for flexitarians seeking plant-based food and drink, but taste tops the list, according to a new study.
It is no secret that plant-based products are rising in popularity, but according to research carried out by the well-known ingredients company, Kerry, the taste experience of these products are falling short.
The company found that sustainability and health concerns are driving consumers to plant-based meat alternatives, but their taste experience of these products does not live up to what consumers want.
Kerry carried out research with more than 1,500 consumers across four countries – the US, UK, Australia and Brazil – to uncover sensory expectations around plant-based burgers and cheese alternative slices. The research found that flexitarians – the key consumer group driving the growth of plant-based items – are more critical of products versus vegan and vegetarian consumers.
The group’s research found that a total of 60 percent of UK consumers started eating plant-based products because they are considered ‘healthier’, whilst 63 percent of US consumers started eating plant-based products because they believe plant-based is ‘better for the planet’. In Australia, 51 percent of consumers buy plant-based due to a better environmental impact, and in Brazil, 67 percent of consumers buy plant-based because they are committed to improving their own (or their family’s) overall health.
Kerry also found that consumers appear to desire products with improved succulence and “a ‘bite’ that feels as close to meat as possible”. They also seek visual cues such as charring which “signal that a burger is perfectly cooked and safe to eat”, and are looking for meat alternatives with attributes that indicate improved nutrition.
“The need for a great taste experience is universal,” said Fiona Sweeney, Strategic Marketing Director at Kerry. “For plant-based foods, which are often chosen by consumers as a more sustainable option, ensuring great taste can be a gateway to delivering innovative and sustainable nutrition solutions for consumers around the world. However, ensuring a great taste experience – involving a full sensorial experience of sight, sound and texture – is highly complex and in plant-based foods it is inherently more challenging because the bar is set high with meat and dairy as the benchmark.”
She added that while the flexitarian consumer is actively trying to reduce their meat and dairy consumption, their diets still include meat and diary products, meaning their expectations for plant-based experiences are set and driven by the ones they have always had.
“Overall, our research found that flexitarians are more critical of the plant-based products currently available on the market. Delivering great taste, along with improved nutrition and sustainability credentials, will be key to success in this category,” she concluded.