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How to unlock and address a market that’s 10 times bigger

October 26, 2022

With plant-based products finally gaining mainstream status, it’s more important than ever for brands and retailers alike to really understand what the consumer wants, to harness the power and profitability of the plant-based sector.

Over the course of this column, I want to shed some light on the flexitarian consumer and what they really want when it comes to plant-based products. In each issue, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the key marketing best practices from packaging, labeling, promotion and merchandising, as well as share exclusive data from ProVeg International on consumer sentiment toward plant-based and cultured products.

So, how do you unlock an addressable market that is 10 times bigger? Well, the simple answer is by shifting your marketing focus from vegans to flexitarians.

I’m sure a lot of you reading this are already very familiar with this term and are likely already aware of this consumer group in your marketing efforts. But for those of you who are not yet familiar, a flexitarian is a consumer who is more flexible in their diet and are actively reducing their consumption of animal-based products. They tend to be more receptive to alternative options than their omnivore counterparts and are often driven to choose more plant-based products by health or environmental concerns.

But why are flexitarians important when increasing the addressable market for plant-based products? Well, a statistic you might find surprising is that up to 90% of all plant-based food purchases actually come from flexitarians. A popular plant-based brand in the UK, Dopsu, found that 70% of their purchases were made by flexitarians and research by Beyond Meat echoes this statistic.

Shift your product development and marketing efforts from vegans, who only represent around 3% of the population, to flexitarians

Following a flexitarian diet is becoming the new normal. In a recent study conducted by ProVeg International as part of the Smart Protein Project, 30% of respondents stated they follow a flexitarian diet. The study also found that more than one-fifth of respondents consumed plant-based milk, yoghurt and meat at least once a week. Maybe most excitingly, the results revealed almost 30% of respondents will consume more plant-based dairy and plant-based meat products in the future, showing the huge potential of flexitarians.

These statistics sound like great news! Unfortunately, to truly unlock the flexitarian market potential, we still have some work to do because many consumers are still not satisfied with the current plant-based product offering.

Around 45% of respondents in our survey highlighted a lack of availability as a key barrier to purchasing plant-based products and half of the flexitarians in our sample said that plant-based products are too expensive.

We also need to understand the factors that influence purchasing and use them to our advantage! Approximately 2,000 flexitarians stated that taste and health are the most important factors when choosing plant-based products. Additionally, the success of products such as the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger shows that consumers want a familiar, indulgent experience that’s healthier, better for the environment and animal-free.

So how do you unlock a total addressable market that is up to 10 times larger? Shift your product development and marketing efforts from vegans – who only represent around 3% of the population – to flexitarians. Emphasize taste, health and indulgence on your packaging and in your promotional material. Go where the flexitarians go

to get your product in front of a broader consumer base, both in-store and online. Don’t price your products too high. Above all, check out the next instalment of this column where I’ll share my ‘3 Golden Rules for Front-of-Pack’, which can play an integral role in drawing in flexitarians to buy and try your plant-based product!

And if you can’t wait that long, check out the New Food Hub for actionable insights around how to succeed in the plant-based market, including more information on how to best target the flexitarian consumer in retail, food-service and, of course, as a food brand.

Stephanie is the Director of Corporate Engagement at ProVeg International. In her role, she works to accelerate the growth of the alternative protein industry in Europe and globally; and create a future of food that is sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet. This article was republished from the October/November 2022 edition of Protein Production Technology International, the industry's leading resource for alternative proteins. To subscribe to read future editions hot off the digital press, please click here

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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