I’m sure we can all agree plant-based meat alternatives are growing in market share and dollar sales, and that flexitarians rather than vegans or even vegetarians are the engine driving growth in the category. (See my previous blog on plant-based foods for supporting numbers.) Want more proof? I just read Disney is adding 400 plant-based items to its menus in Disney World.
Since we’re all agreed that plant-based is a trend and not a fad, I’m going to delve into what it takes to attract and cultivate loyal customers in the plant-based meat alternative space. What makes one plant-based burger brand more likeable than another? Why are people more interested in trying one product over another? And what makes them stick to a brand or product – repeat purchasing?
Advances in plant-based meat— taste, texture and appearance have gone a long way in supporting market growth in this space. Because let’s face it, taste is THE major factor in purchase intent. You can do everything else right, but if a product doesn’t deliver on taste, you’re sunk. With vegans and vegetarians, there is more wiggle room on taste in meat substitutes because they don’t necessarily want their veggie burgers to taste like meat, and they’re willing to accept less than stellar taste. Meanwhile most flexitarians and those interested in adopting more plant-based foods into their diet DO want products to taste and chew like meat burgers. They’re not willing to compromise just because a burger is plant-based.
So, let’s say you master the taste, texture and appearance part, then what? This is when you need to look to other trends impacting the food and beverage sector. In this case, it’s health & wellness and clean label. These trends stretch across the industry and are particularly important to those seeking out plant-based meat alternatives. Nearly a third of primary shoppers in the U.S. are clean label enthusiasts, with 85% saying they are ‘proactive with their health,’ from an online study conducted by InsightsNow. Being proactive with their health, includes reading labels and getting functional benefits from plant-based foods. Many of these health-conscious consumers are also making brand choices based on sustainability.
Clean label creds
With all the recent activity and excitement in the alt burger space, clean label took a back seat in consumers’ purchasing hierarchy. Now as more and more new products enter the space, it’s moving back into the forefront. This presents an opportunity for marketers to build their brand in the alt burger space by connecting with consumers through clean label design, examining which ingredients are functional and acceptable.
In the same InsightsNow study mentioned above, the researchers asked consumers to rank 14 different plant burgers by reviewing the packaging. Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger came out squarely on top, whereas the Impossible Burger sat just about in the middle. The researchers attributed Beyond Burger’s placement to its claims (no soy, no gluten, non-GMO Project Verified, high protein), brand trust, ingredient clean label, and ingredient simplicity. These are, of course, subjective. As the researchers dug deeper into consumers reasons for rankings, they found ingredient driven consumers were often looking to avoid certain ingredients or were looking for short ingredient statements. In case you’re wondering, the Beyond Burger has 18 ingredients listed (among them – apple extract and pomegranate fruit powder). And Impossible Burger has 21 (with no fruit ingredients listed.) The study also showed although awareness of many plant-based burger brands was moderately high, trial was still relatively low.
This indicates that clean, clearer labels with familiar ingredients, such as fruit, really resonate with consumers. And it suggests there’s still room in the market for new plant-based burgers that deliver on consumer expectations for great taste and clean labels.
If you’d like the added benefits of using fruit in your formulation, we can help. Tree Top’s fruit powders (apple, pear, and plum) offer a wide range of benefits including:
- Flavor Enhancement
- Improved humectancy
- Control water activity
- Increased yield
- Fat reduction
- Extended shelf-life for baked goods
- Microbial inhibitor