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Factors driving the plant protein market

By Roger Lane

While diets limiting meat, dairy and eggs used to be viewed as fads, many of today’s consumers, especially millennials, are shifting toward plant-based eating. These consumers are choosing to view the entire body and world around them as a balanced system, resulting in a more holistic outlook. The result is more and more Americans, including top athletes such as Tom Brady and Venus Williams, are identifying as vegan, vegetarian or plant-based.

Recent research shows while concerns about the environment and animal welfare are still motivating factors for following a plant-based lifestyle, they aren’t the driving factors. Many plant-based protein consumers are making the switch instead to improve their health and well-being. Studies suggest plant-based diets can help curb obesity, stroke and heart disease, prevent a variety of cancers, reduce cholesterol and arthritis pain, lower blood sugar and increase energy and mental clarity. Anxiety about food safety, drug-resistant bacteria and food borne illness is also a factor in the move toward veganism. Consumers aren’t willing, however, to sacrifice taste. In fact, according to Mintel, taste is the driving factor when it comes to making decisions in the grocery aisle, followed by health-centric attributes. Consumers seeking plant-based options are more likely to look for non-GMO products that are high in protein and have no artificial ingredients.

A generationally unifying concept of cost savings is also inspiring the rising trend of the vegan lifestyle. According to Mintel, cutting costs is the most common reason cited by lower-income earners for reducing their intake of animal protein. On the opposite side of the scale, restaurants are looking at the jump in profits offering vegan items can give. The research firm, Foodable Lab, found that adding vegan items to menus can be a profitable move for restaurants, resulting in a 13% increase in revenue year over year.

The shift toward the plant-based diet is driven largely by younger consumers, however, their effect is raising awareness across the entire demographic spectrum. While there are many reasons consumers are turning to veganism, the fact remains that it seems to be an unstoppable trend with much more growth potential.

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