Taste Tops Reasons Americans Choose Plant Proteins

March 7, 2018
Kimberly J. Decker

Survey results from Mintel show that among 1,876 U.S. internet users aged 18 and older who eat plant-based proteins, taste is the top reason they choose to do so, with 52% of those surveyed ranking it ahead of health (39%), the environment (13%), animal protection (11%), and dietary concerns (10%) as a motivator.

A new survey from Mintel (Chicago) shows that among 1,876 U.S. internet users aged 18 and older who eat plant-based proteins, taste is the top reason they choose to do so, with 52% of those surveyed ranking it ahead of health (39%), the environment (13%), animal protection (11%), and dietary concerns (10%) as a motivator.

“Despite the fact that health attributes, particularly free-from, factor strongly in consumer decisions when purchasing plant-based proteins, at the end of the day, taste is the driving force behind purchase and eating decisions,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst, Mintel, in a press statement. “While overall consumption of plant-based proteins remains low, these products benefit from a generally healthy reputation both for consumers’ diets and for the environment, and growing consumer interest in better-for-you lifestyles will continue to drive interest in the category.”

The survey tapped American consumers’ perceptions of plant-based proteins more broadly and found that more than three quarters (76%) view plant-based proteins as healthy, with 46% deeming them more so than animal-based options. Health-focused consumers are more likely to seek plant-based protein products with no artificial ingredients (41%), that are high in protein (35%) and fiber (28%) and that are non-GMO (28%).

But despite their interest in plant proteins’ health and functional attributes, less than half (46%) of consumers trust functional claims on plant-based foods, hinting at an opportunity for brands to communicate their products’ benefits-benefits like transparency, which matters to the seven in 10 (71%) of Americans who want more information about product/ingredient origin on packaging.

Price still dampens some consumers’ perceptions of plant-based foods. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans aged 18 to 34 agree that plant-based foods are more expensive than others, compared to 57% overall. But almost half (47%) of 18- to 34-year-olds see branding as an important purchase cue for plant-based foods, compared to 40% of consumers overall.

Finally, while interest in plant-based proteins may be rising, consumers continue to eat animals. More than two-thirds (67%) believe meat essential to a balanced diet, and just over half (51%) consider a meal minus meat incomplete.

“The opportunity for plant-based proteins appears more as a complement to animal-based proteins than as a wholesale replacement, as our research shows that many consumers are interested in plant-based proteins but still view meat as an important part of a balanced diet,” Roberts noted. “The biggest challenge for the plant-based proteins category continues to be finding the right balance between flavor and health, and discovering the categories where consumers will accept the addition of plant-based varieties.”

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