No Vegan Food Please: Consumers Prefer Plant-Based Labels 🌿

Good Monday once again, fellow nerds! Anybody else feeling that autumn nip in the air? 💨 🍂 (If you’re not, do me a favor and pack up some of that nice weather; my toes are freezing!)

In this week’s news roundup, we’re taking a look at the popularity of plant-based foods — and a couple major hurdles the industry needs to overcome if it wants to beat out meat proteins in the battle for taste bud real estate.

Alt Protein Just Keeps on Rising

September’s online Alt Protein Conference highlighted the rapid transformations influencing the future of food — mainly, food tech in the plant-based and cell-based protein space. 🧪 🌱According to the panel of investors, co-founders, scientists, business innovators and other industry experts who participated, the next decade is going to be the most disruptive we’ve seen in “the last 10,000 years.” And it’s all due to the rapid rise expansion of food-related tech.

A bold statement? Probably. But with more mainstream meat companies getting into alt protein and processes like fermentation 🍻 being leveraged on a wider scale, the possibilities — and the potential markets — are expanding.

So much so, in fact, that new companies now face the challenge of differentiating their plant-based products from other novel proteins. And consumers’ standards are high. They want great products with ingredient and nutrition labels that make them feel like they’re eating healthy even when they’re scarfing down pizza 🍕 and burgers. 🍔 The demand is giving rise to a new generation of precision, personalized and functional protein ingredients and pointing to a future where cleaner labels may be a deciding factor in which plant-based companies thrive.

 Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

But People Apparently Don’t Want “Vegan Food”

Despite a market size of over $4 billion in 2019, plant-based meat still lags behind animal meat by a significant margin. Consumers may want to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices, but what they don’t want to do is eat foods labeled as “vegan” or “vegetarian.” 🥗What’s up with that? It’s all about perception. To associate a food with a particular dietary pattern is to perpetuate the image of exclusion — in other words, consumers see vegetarian and vegan diets as restrictive, representing what they have to give up.

Plant-based foods, on the other hand, get a more favorable reaction. In a report from Technomic, which provides insights for the foodservice industry, 43% of consumers said they’d choose vegan food, while 58% were happy to eat plant-based. 🌱 Either way, only 27% said they thought restaurants were hitting the mark with their veg options.

What is all comes down to is the experience of eating. 😋 Consumers who are used to animal meat and dairy will compare taste and texture, not health benefits, when deciding what they like.

And Then There’s All the Waste…

It’s a sad fact that food production of any kind generates waste. 🗑 At home, it’s fairly easy to turn scraps into vegetable broth or juice pulp into crackers. But when you scale that up to the amount of waste generated at an industrial level, it becomes a massive problem. Around the world, we’re tossing upwards of 1.3 billion tons of otherwise edible food every year.

Where is it all coming from? Well, there’s the “ugly“ produce that doesn’t quite meet supermarket specifications.

Then you have the trimmings, pulp and other leftovers from making thousands of different food products at scale every day. 🥬🍅🍆🍎🍌 And let’s not forget the edible parts of crops that never grace the shelves of traditional grocery stores and that most people wouldn’t know how to use in any case (sweet potato greens, anyone?).
Companies are making changes to reduce waste at the production level, but to tackle the problem on a wider scale, many are turning to upcycling.

Upcycling opens the door for novel new ingredients and products.

Waste can be used in other production processes, to create unique ingredients or as the basis for entirely new foods.💡 It’s a process that offers benefits across industries, as well as opportunities to create income-generating activities for people around the world.

Who would’ve thought that vegan food 🍲 would be taking the world by storm under a completely different label! And it’s looking like the trend is only going to continue.

Which camp are you in? Are you a staunch vegan, or do you prefer the plant-based label? 👇🏻👇🏻