The skinny on plant-based protein consumers

A new report from Field Agent explores the meat reducer phenomenon.

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When it comes to plant-based proteins, the spate of product offerings goes beyond meat. Packaged plant-based proteins represent just 9% of plant-based products replacing meat on the plate, which means there is significant room for CPG category growth.

Those are some of the findings of Field Agent’s latest report, titled Understanding the Plant Based Protein Shopper in Canada – Going Beyond the Hype. In it, Field Agent surveyed 1,000 Canadians coast-to-coast about their attitudes toward plant-based proteins, 71% of whom fall into the 25 to 44 demo and across a broad range of household incomes.

Meat Reducers

A new consumer segment  “beyond those living a vegetarian lifestyle”  is emerging.

In the report, Field Agent asked respondents about their attitudes toward meat, with the report highlighting a segment that is more than four times the size of the flexitarian/vegetarian group, called “meat reducers.”

These folks (comprising 26% of respondents) as the name suggests, are looking to decrease meat consumption – mostly for health reasons, rather than compassion for animals (14% more meat reducers than flexitarians/vegetarians said that health was the driving force for their lifestyle change, whereas 22% more flexitarians/vegetarians than meat reducers were swayed by animal welfare concerns).

The primary gulf between the two groups, however, is cost. Of meat reducers, 38% say cost factors into their decision making when purchasing plant-based protein products, versus only 9% of flexitarians/vegetarians.

Meat reducers, as a group, are very new to the category. Nearly two-thirds of vegetarians (64%), however, have been committed to eating plant-based protein for more than five years. For meat reducers,in comparison, a similarly-sized group (63%) has been equally committed – but for less than two years. There is an opportunity, according to the report, for brands to educate this new segment on product offerings.

Meats feeling the heat

Meat reducer reduction is not equal across meats. The group is cutting back on three types of meat predominantly: beef (88%) processed meats (84%), and pork (74%).

When it comes to what’s replacing meat, three groups lead the way: raw/uncooked vegetables (17%), beans (15%), and seafood (12%), followed by lentils (11%), tofu (10%) and legumes (9%). The report finds that among meat reducers, packaged plant-based meat alternatives are only filling in about 9% of the volume. Given our convenience-based lifestyle, the report says, brands can deliver convenient meal solutions that reduce time-to-plate and ease of preparation.

Consumer perceptions and preferences

Packaged plant-based meat alternatives, with the exception of Beyond Meat, do not elicit a lot of enthusiasm among Canadian consumers – especially as it pertains to taste, quality, and ease of use (despite competitors being as easy to find in store as Beyond Meat), according to respondents.

Despite only launching a few months ago, Beyond Meat is the plant-based protein brand that consumers (30%) have tried in the past year at home more than any other major brand in the category, followed by Yves Veggie Cuisine (25% of consumers). And only 12% and 10% of respondents reported trying Amy’s and Gardein. More than a dozen smaller brands (Hearts Choice, Wholly Veggie) round out the responses.

For 65% of the respondents who tried the Beyond Meat burger at A&W, it was the first time they had consumed a plant-based protein in the past two years. Also, almost 60% of respondents said they were likely to try an A&W Beyond Meat burger in the next month.

Consumers prefer retailers use coupons (27% of respondents) and in-store demos (26%) to drive their interest and purchases in-store, followed by flyers (18%), in-store displays (15%) and recipe ideas (15%).

Survey respondents cited Walmart and Superstore as the go-to retailers for shopping the category (15%), followed by Sobeys/Safeway, Loblaw and Costco (each at 12%). No Frills, Metro, Save-On-Foods and Whole Foods all received less than 6% of responses.