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Health continues to drive plant-based food sales, Euromonitor survey reveals

In 2021, Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: Health and Nutrition survey definitively established that health was the key growth driver for plant-based meat alternatives, with the top two reasons for eating plant-based meat alternatives being ‘to feel healthier’ and to ‘avoid long-term health risks’.

The publication of Euromonitor International’s 2022 edition offers insights into whether these motivating factors have shifted year-on-year. This year’s survey revealed that 37% state that they eat these products to feel healthier, and 25% to avoid long-term health risks. These are once again the top two responses, ahead of wanting to reduce environmental impact (23%) and promoting animal welfare (20%).

While health concerns are clearly prominent (indeed, the seventh most-likely response is also health-based) the number of consumers choosing plant-based for the environment and for animal welfare is slowly growing, while health as a motivator has stayed static year-on-year. Economic concerns have come to the fore and inflation has led to surging food prices, which is a particularly relevant issue as plant-based meat alternatives have yet to achieve price-parity with animal-derived options.

New to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: Health and Nutrition survey for 2022 are questions which interrogate dairy alternative motivations in the same way. Health concerns regarding consumption of processed red meat (such as obesity, heart disease, even cancer) are not the same as for animal dairy consumption. However, the latter is associated in many consumers’ minds with skin complaints, digestion problems, weight gain, allergies and even concerns with GMO feed in the food chain. Moreover, the environmental impact of dairy farming is much discussed, and animal welfare is increasingly considered – in the USA, for example, there have been recent, high-profile lawsuits regarding treatment of dairy cows.

Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: Health and Nutrition survey also reveals why consumers who do not eat these products choose to avoid them. For both plant-based meat and plant-based dairy, not enjoying the taste (re)emerges as the most likely reason (28.8% of non-plant-based meat eaters, 30.4% of non-plant-based dairy eaters). However, this objection appears to be diminishing over time.

“It is clear that, for now at least, health concerns remain the chief motivator for choosing plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy,” commented Tom Rees, the Industry Manager at Euromonitor International who has a focus on food and nutrition. “This does, however, suggest a particular challenge for the future. Will this health halo remain in place as consumers increasingly reject processed foods in favor of what they consider to be ‘natural’? As regulators in some key markets appear to be edging towards some sort of labelling system that gives consumers an easy-to-understand comparison showing which foods are ‘healthy’, producers may face a future in which simply adding ‘plant-based’ to their labels is not enough to convince potential consumers that buying such products is good for their health.”

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