Nearly one-fourth of US consumers report eating plant-based meat, poultry, or seafood products. This  suggests that plant-based products are going mainstream and are no longer niche, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the new study, “Meat, Poultry, & Seafood Alternatives: Plant-Based & Cultured Cell-Based Types.”

“Packaged Facts’ August 2020 National Online Consumer Survey found that 23% of consumers claim to eat any variety of plant-based meat products,” said Jennifer Mapes-Christ, Packaged Facts’ food and beverage publisher. “There are opportunities to target this burgeoning minority of consumers, who may be persuaded to use larger volumes of plant-based meat in their diets. The 77% of consumers who do not eat plant-based meat products also suggests that marketers have a lot of room to increase penetration among the population.”

Opportunities indeed abound. Packaged Facts’ data indicate that a full 37% of consumers who do not eat plant-based meat are open to trying these products, revealing there truly is a lot of room for more household penetration. For the other 63% of consumers who are not open to trying plant-based meat, perceptions of plant-based meat may eventually change over time and allow more people to be open to using these products.

Despite so many consumers being curious and open to trying alternatives to meat, poultry, or seafood, it is important to note that they may not become regular buyers if their conditions for trying plant-based meat are not met. In fact, even consumers who already eat plant-based meat products may not do so regularly because it may not be practical at current price points or with limited product varieties being available (leading to less than desirable meal variety).

In a separate report, Packaged Facts observed that American consumers eating more plant-based foods include adults under age 35 and those actively following a specific diet.  Rather than presumably indicating an increased adoption of vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, the uptick in plant-based food consumption hints at wider acceptable of flexitarianism.

“Although the population of vegetarians and vegans has remained relatively stable over time and currently makes up a small portion of consumers, flexitarianism is much more widespread,” said Mapes-Christ.

Packaged Facts’ August 2020 National Online Consumer Survey asked consumers which diet or eating philosophy they are currently primarily following. The results show that just 3% of consumers follow a vegan diet, 3% of consumers are pescatarian, and 5% of consumers are vegetarian. The majority (53%) of consumers are primarily omnivorous, while 36% of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian because they eat meat or poultry and regularly mix up their diet with vegan or vegetarian meals.

“Despite use of plant-based meat-alternative or dairy-alternative products being highest among those following vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian diets, omnivores and flexitarians make up the lion’s share of consumers who eat these products due to their sheer numbers. This reveals that both the current and addressable market for plant-based products depends on omnivores and flexitarians using more of these products,” said Mapes-Christ.


Active Innovators!

There certainly are more plant-based meat options as processors target expanding opportunities by category (meat/poultry/seafood), product type and even price point.

After it first established itself in foodservice, meatless products leader Impossible Foods Inc., Redwood City, Calif., committed 2020 to national retail grocery distribution. Meanwhile, leading rival Beyond Meat Inc., El Segundo, Calif., introduced four product lines from March through October 2020: Breakfast Sausage Patties, Cookout Classic burgers (value-priced frozen patties) Meatballs, and Breakfast Sausage Links.

"The majority (53%) of consumers are primarily omnivorous, while 36% of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian because they eat meat or poultry and regularly mix up their diet with vegan or vegetarian meals."

Beyond Meat closed last year with an announcement of two new Beyond Burgers rolling out in early 2021. Officials said they include the brand’s juiciest patty for the meatiest burger experience even as it delivers strong nutritional wins relative to 80/20 beef with 35% less saturated fat; as well as the company’s most nutritious patty yet with 55% less saturated fat than 80/20 beef. Beyond Meat then greeted 2021 with news that it will move to a new 300,000-sq.-ft. global headquarters (also in El Segundo), that will “house cutting-edge fundamental and applied research, alongside globalized product development teams.”

Other active industry giants last year included JBS USA, Greeley, Colo.; Nestlé USA, Rosslyn, Va.; and Conagra Brands Inc., Chicago. JBS introduced Planterra Foods, a new plant-based subsidiary with three new Ozo offerings (burgers, ground, Mexican-spiced ground) all featuring a blend of pea and rice protein fermented by shiitake mushrooms. Separately, Nestlé’s Sweet Earth Foods business launched three plant-based breakfast sausages, a bacon burger and three vegan sliced deli meats. Last but least, Conagra extended its Gardein line with the Ultimate Plant-Based Burger (4oz patty, 19g of protein per serving).


Additional new plant-based meats, by product type, have included:

Meat: Before the Butcher, San Diego, expanded its UNCUT lineup with four thaw-and-sell varieties of plant-based grounds: Original, Italian, Taco and Breakfast. Separately, it developed new frozen Mainstream Plant-Based Patties ($10.99 SRP) as a value-based line. Smithfield Foods’ Pure Farmland brand grew with three plant-based sausage offerings: Savory Original Breakfast Links and Maple Breakfast Links and Mild Italian Dinner Links. San Francisco’s Hooray Foods introduced its namesake plant-based bacon in 300 Whole Foods stores. Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., introduced Garden Inspirations by Farm Rich, which includes Plant-based BBQ Sliders and Meatless Meatballs. Elsewhere, ADF Foods (USA) Ltd., San Mateo, Calif., extended its Nate’s Meatless line with new Swedish Meatballs. 

Poultry: Greenleaf Foods, SPC, Chicago, introduced Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Plant-Based Nuggets, which are breaded and par-fried similar to conventional chicken nuggets. Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, Elmwood Park, N.J., introduced the Perfect Turk’y Burger. Morningstar Farms (Kellogg’s Company) extended its Incogmeato brand with Mickey Mouse Shaped Chik’n Nuggets.

Fish & Seafood: After debuting with Good Catch plant-based tuna, Gathered Foods, New York, N.Y., expanded its line with New England Style Plant-Based Crab Cakes, Thai Style Plant-Based Fish Cakes, and Classic Style Plant-Based Fish Burgers. Separately, Gathered Foods announced that in 2021 it will introduce a separate planted-based line, Wicked!, in the United States. This broader, mushroom-based line debuted in the United Kingdom. In other news, Upton’s Naturals, Chicago, introduced Banana Blossom. “Mimicking the texture of flaky fish, this 100% vegan, certified organic and kosher whole-food meat alternative makes creating a plant-based version of the British classic recipe possible,” the company says.