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Consumers call for plant-based foods to be same price as meat

February 20, 2023

A survey carried out by ProVeg International has found that the likelihood of people buying plant-based foods rather than the animal-meat equivalents increases dramatically when prices of the former are cheaper. The survey also found that most people want plant-based meat alternatives to be the same price as animal-based meat and to be similarly subsidised by government.

The findings, laid out in a report called Plant-based price parity, come as the rise in the cost-of-living is causing the price of conventional meat to increase. Plant-based products, however, have not been as affected by inflationary increases since they typically have higher margins.

Margins on meat have been historically low, typically set at 8%, while plant-based foods are sold at margins of between 35% and 50%.

“Those higher margins may have acted as a buffer to absorb the price blows, while with meat, supermarkets had no choice but to raise prices. This could explain why animal-based meat has been hit so hard by price increases and plant-based substitutes have not,” commented ProVeg’s Pablo Moleman.

The ProVeg report, out last week, is based on a survey of 1,000 consumers. Of those taking part, 66% described themselves as omnivores while 24% said they follow a flexitarian diet, meaning they are actively striving to reduce their meat consumption. Just 4% of people said that they follow a vegetarian diet, while 4% stated that they follow a pescetarian diet, and 1% said their dietary lifestyle is vegan. (Only the omnivores and flexitarians were surveyed about their willingness to purchase plant-based meat since the study was interested in the behaviour of meat eaters.)

Among the findings was a much higher likelihood of respondents buying plant-based burgers when they were priced cheaper than the animal-meat burger. A price reduction in plant-based burgers from £6 to £2 increased the purchase of plant-based burgers by a substantial 134%, and decreased the purchase of beef burgers by 14%.

The survey also found that most survey respondents (70%) think that plant-based food is more expensive and less affordable than animal-based foods. Also, most people (59%) want the Government to subsidise plant-based alternatives to make them more affordable. In addition, the majority of consumers are willing to pay the same price for plant-based alternatives that they pay for animal-based products. When the cost of living rises, most people (67%) prioritize saving money over making ethical decisions. In terms of health, 36% of people said they would be willing to pay more for plant-based food products if they were healthier than animal-based products.

Stephanie Jazcniakowska-McGirr, Director of Corporate Engagement at ProVeg, said plant-based companies should take heed of the report and clearly communicate to consumers what they are purchasing.

“Consumers want to know what they are paying for –  with plant-based products, there is plenty to say about health, the environment, animal welfare, and great taste,” said Jaczniakowska-McGirr.

Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective actions that an individual can take to tackle climate change – animal agriculture is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based foods do not contribute to animal suffering and the range and taste of plant-based products on offer have increased dramatically over the last few years. On top of this, the World Health Organization evaluated several hundred studies in 2015 and concluded that processed red meat is carcinogenic to humans.

“Equally important is the need to try to keep the price of the product as low as possible, since our survey found that people are more likely to buy plant-based products if they are cheaper than their animal-based equivalents," continued Jazcniakowska-McGirr. "This can be done by using plant-based ingredients that are low in cost but still high in nutritional value, such as beans, lentils, peas and oats."

Of the other recommendations, it is advised that plant-based-food companies need to invest in R&D and process management in order to find a way to manufacture products in a way that makes them as affordable as possible to the end-consumer.

If products contain expensive, high-quality ingredients or require a costly production process, explain to consumers how the price is determined. By communicating in a transparent and authentic way, consumers will gain trust in the brand and be more willing to pay the price you set.

Offering occasional discounts or promotions will build brand loyalty and communicate the added value of a product so that consumers will be more willing to purchase the product in the future.

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

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