Plant-based meat and dairy: What are consumers’ biggest purchase drivers?


Market researcher FMCG Gurus shares survey insights on what’s influencing consumer decisions to buy plant-based products.

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Photo ©

Plant-based food has made a huge impression on the food and drink industry in the past couple of years. An area which used to be viewed as somewhat of a niche has become a normality for many, with constant innovations and developments happening at a swift pace and more consumers welcoming plant-based products into their diets.

Plant-Based Meat Drivers

In FMCG Gurus’ Meat & Plant-Based Protein Survey, 52% of consumers stated that they eat meat on a regular basis, 36% said they sometimes do, and 12% said they never eat meat. With plant-based products more of a social norm today than ever before, it has become much easier for consumers to reduce their meat/dairy consumption and turn to plant-based alternatives. In the survey, 17% of consumers stated that they gave up meat in the last 12 months, and a further 45% said they had not given up meat but have made attempts to reduce their meat intake. And 38% stated they gave up meat more than 12 months ago. This indicates that consumers are more accepting of the idea of reducing or eliminating meat from their diets—a transition made easier thanks to the rapid development of the plant-based industry.

Moreover, 80% of those who said they have reduced meat consumption said they did so due to their concerns for the environment. Consumers are increasingly aware of any negative repercussions of eating meat, with mainstream media shedding more awareness on any problems within the meat industry over the years. Carbon emissions, excessive water and land usage, and the state of the conditions that animals are subjected to are all factors that have influenced a shift in consumers’ mentality towards meat consumption.

Plant-Based Dairy Drivers

Similarly, dairy is another area consumers are more concerned about today than in previous years due to environmental issues and animal welfare. Our data show that 22% of consumers surveyed do not eat or drink conventional dairy products. When asked why they don’t, the top three answers were: “dairy is high in sugar” (67%), “I don’t believe dairy is healthy” (65%), and environmental concerns (62%). Digging deeper, 53% stated they do not like how cows are treated and have concerns about animal welfare. These are key influencers that drive consumers to alternative-dairy products as opposed to regular dairy.

Also, 45% of global consumers stated that they eat/drink alternative dairy products, and 70% said they do so because they feel it is better for the environment and they deem dairy alternatives to be healthier. More than two-thirds of consumers also said they use plant-based alternatives because they prefer the taste to regular milk products. The three most popular categories for plant-based alternatives in dairy were yogurt (63%), milk (62%), and cheese (57%). Importantly, 60% of consumers said it is important/very important that dairy alternatives can be used in the same way as conventional dairy products—for example, for cooking, making hot drinks or cakes, etc.—so the functional aspect of plant-based alternatives is a factor that should be examined.

Alternative Dairy: Important Factors to Consider

Finally, 85% of consumers who purchase plant-based alternatives said taste is the most important factor. Taste is always a determining element that the majority of consumers do not wish to compromise on. Texture and flavor are essential to consider and govern product experience, and they are most likely the deciding factor of whether consumers repurchase a product.

Following taste, other key factors swaying consumers include sustainability claims (75%) and health claims/benefits (73%). Products that outline valid claims that promote the betterment of the environment and enhance health are appealing because these directly address concerns and provide reassurance. Claims must be well-founded by evidence through mediums such as science or clinical trials that are easily accessible and transparent. Consumers want to feel confidence in the products they purchase. Not only does this offer support but it also reduces the risk of “greenwashing,” a phenomenon that has left many consumers feeling apprehensive and untrusting of claims. So, it is especially important to ensure claims are kept comprehensive and honest.

Research from this article is based on FMCG Gurus’ Meat & Plant-Based Protein Survey.

About the Author

Emily Ann Smith is a data analyst and editorial executive at FMCG Gurus. For more information, please visit or e-mail

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