Pass the (Vegan) Cheese, Please

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
December 28, 2020

Good Monday, fellow nerds! Hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. 🎄 Are you looking forward to 2021?

Me too, though perhaps not for quite the same reasons. So many people are waving goodbye to 2020 with enormous sighs of relief and eyeing 2021 as a fresh start with a ray of hope as the shining light at the end of a long tunnel.

I feel you. 2020 has been bizarre, to say the least. 🤪 But for The Modern Health Nerd, 2021 holds something else—a new focus, fresh content and a few surprises waiting in the wings.

More on that later. For now, let’s dig into the headlines for the final news roundup of 2020. 📰

It’s 2021, and the Biohackers are Taking Over

OK, maybe not hard-core, but functional nutrition is quickly becoming a “thing.”

Consumers are on the lookout for foods that do more than tickle the taste buds; they want real, noticeable health effects. Thirty-one percent say they’re purchasing more items “tailored for health,” and 50% want snacks with naturally-occurring benefits. 💪🏻

Brands are responding with:

  • Functional ingredients
  • Cleaner labels
  • Prebiotics and probiotics
  • Immune-boosting foods 🤧
  • Adaptogens and other foods for mental health/stress relief

Strangely, many of these benefits are being juxtaposed with indulgent, “joyful“ foods. Consumers want better health, yes—but they’re also sick of feeling overwhelmed and freaked out, and they just want to eat a cookie. 🍪

Of course, as 2021 unfolds, people will be more likely to buy the cookie (or the chocolate bar, 🍫 or the bag of crispy snacks 🍟) that offers science-backed support for its functional health benefits. That means brands will be under more scrutiny, and those providing educational, scientific substance may win out over those relying on hype.

Crazy Demand Across the Plant-Based Space Makes Cheese a Superstar

Globally, plant-based food has stopped trending. Now, it’s surging. Or even exploding. 💥

By 2025, the industry is predicted to see a 200% rise in demand in China and Thailand and a 25% increase across the Asia-Pacific region in general, topping out at an estimated $1.7 billion. People are warming up to plant-based alternatives 🍔 in these areas, and big brands have been moving in to satisfy growing appetites. So far, the likes of Beyond Meat, KFC and even Tyson have brought plant-based meats to the Asian masses. 🥩🍣

The rest of the world is craving alt protein, too. Fifty-six percent of consumers say they are eating more plant-based food, particularly chilled meat alternatives—but  cheese 🧀 is also skyrocketing in popularity. The plant-based cheese market is expected to more than double from $2.7 billion to $4.5 billion by 2025. The growth, spurred on in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, has prompted a wave of new alternative dairy brands.

And it’s more than cheese. The meteoric rise in non-dairy milk sales hints at the next logical step in the movement’s progression: a projected 19% growth in the non-dairy yogurt 🍨 category between 2020 and 2027. (In case you were wondering: Yes, oats are still the darling of the industry.)

And Going Carbon-Neutral is Pretty Big, Too

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword for 2021 and beyond. A significant number of high-profile brands have proclaimed their commitment to reducing waste and lowering carbon footprints in pursuit of a greener food chain. 🌎

The movement is taking several forms, including “carbon-capture” activities that use waste streams for environmental benefits. Through reuse, recycling and composting, brands are aiming to reduce their carbon footprints—or eliminate them altogether. 🏭

Some brands, such as Moonshot Snacks, are taking the movement further up the supply chain and sourcing ingredients from regenerative farms. (Carbon sequestration, anyone? 👨🏻‍🌾👩🏻‍🌾) Others see compostable packaging as the way to go for a more environmentally friendly future.

It’s not a vain effort—in fact, it could turn out to be extremely profitable. Eighty-two percent of consumers say they’re willing to pay more if a snack has “sustainably produced ingredients.” But the whole movement begs the question…

Why is there so much waste in the first place? 🚮

That’s something I’m aiming to cover more in 2021, both here and on The Modern Health Nerd podcast.

And that’s a wrap for 2020! Thanks for your attention and time as I’ve begun to build out The Modern Health Nerd. As promised, here’s a peek at what 2021 is going to look like:

  • Both the weekly news roundup and the Weekly Find are retiring. 🏖
  • The newsletter will shift to more consumer-focused content with actionable advice for plant-based brands looking to connect with the average consumer. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦
  • Other content types—like market research and case studies—are likely to pop up here and on the (upcoming) Modern Health Nerd website.

And I want to hear from you! What do you want to see from The Modern Health Nerd in 2021? Would you be willing to pay a small subscription fee for deeper insights, more information and reports on original consumer research in the plant-based industry?

Let me know! 👇🏻👇🏻

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