Five types of consumer make up the current ‘unbelievable’ plant-based trend and most are not vegans, according to a survey by the flavour and fragrance giant Givaudan.
Just 3% of plant-based consumers surveyed were in what the company called the ‘eco-warrior’ category. These consumers are solely motivated by animal welfare, environmental concerns and health benefits. The rest of the consumers in the plant-based category were described by Givaudan as either ‘healthy hardcores’, ‘value hunters’, ‘flavour cravers’, or ‘trendy trialists’, and motivated primarily by other factors, such as price, a desire to seek out new flavours and health.
“Not everyone who is eating a vegetarian or a plant-based product is necessarily on a vegan diet,” said Thomas Ullram, Innovation Director at Givaudan. “90% of meat analogue products are eaten by consumers who are also eating meat.”
Speaking at the 11th European edition of the Sustainable Food Summit in Amsterdam, he told the audience: “The good news is that there is more than one vegan consumer type. The bad news is that if you’re a marketer you now need to start thinking about which one you need to attract to your brand.
“These consumer groups want to be addressed differently. They want to have different products and taste. They want to have different packaging. They want to see different certifications or maybe no certification at all. There is a lot you can learn from those consumers. Producers need to think ‘who can I get with what’.”
‘30% of the core meat market will turn into plant-based products’
Ullram said that the Swiss company wanted to discover more about what was behind the current boom in plant-based products. “20 or even 10 years ago it was hard to go on a vegan or a vegetarian diet – you really had to think about where to get all the products.”
Retail shelves today were “light years from where they were”, he said, but were still “not where they will be in five years”.
Four years ago, he noted, the market size for plant-based products in 2020 was estimated at $5.2bn. “In four years, those estimates have increased to $140bn by 2025,” he said. “In April 2018, Euromonitor estimated 124,000 tonnes of meat substitute products will be sold in 2022 in Western Europe. I asked them the same thing on May 2 this year and they said 162,000 tonnes. These are increases that are so unbelievable that we really need a second to comprehend them… 30% of the core meat market will turn into plant-based products – that is massive.”
Revenge of the nerds
New product innovations were therefore needed to take account of today’s different target groups, he claimed.
“A lot of big companies still have that idea of the vegan consumer in mind: this slightly nerdy and hippyish teacher from the 1980s,” he told the audience. “But more or less everyone in here now could be at least what we call a 'reduceatarian'.”
The 3% ‘eco-warrier’ contingent “will always be there” he believed. Those in this category “sacrifice flavour and taste over conscience. They think if it tastes too good then it can’t be healthy or helpful anymore. You will always have that small group and you even risk losing that group of consumers by making your product too good.”
Taste is king
But people in the other categories increasingly demand taste. “Consumers say ‘I’ve just eaten a vegan burger because I like it the taste of it'. There is no bigger, higher conscience behind it.”
If these shoppers do not like the taste of a product, they will leave the category, warned Ullram.
“52% of all meat analogue consumers claim that taste is the primary reason for staying in the category. There is no health or environmental factors: they just like the taste.”
What’s more, there is room for improvement with products satisfaction levels: 47% of consumers are happy with the plant-based products, according to the survey. “There will be lot of dynamic in the market over the next years,” Ullram added.
The five types of plant-based consumer
The healthy hardcores
This group is eating plant-based foods primarily for health reasons. They are generally apathetic about the ethics of veganism, noted the Givaudan report. “We’ve seen a lot of sportspeople like Lewis Hamilton who are vegan. They give the perception to consumers that it’s more healthy.”
The value hunters
Student make up a big part of this category. “The other important thing for them is that it has a longer shelf life than real meat.”
The flavour craver
Flavour cravers are exploring new flavour journeys.
The trendy trialist
These consumers are dedicated followers of fashion looking for new and different experiences.
Only this group – which make up just 3% – is motivated by concerns about animal welfare, health benefits and the environment.