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Ingredion: New insights into what drives plant-based meat preferences

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With robust growth forecasts, high profile investment dollars and a mission statement to revolutionize the food and beverage ecosystem, the spotlight on plant-based and alternative proteins only continues to intensify. But with a global goal of sustainably feeding nearly a vastly growing population, it is not a question of will plant-based proteins succeed, it’s a question of how and how fast.

To better facilitate this movement, Ingredion turned directly to the consumer – to first understand their overall protein drivers and then comparing them to the attitudes and usage underpinning today’s brands. With these insights, our holistic and sustainable approach to co-creation can help you deliver a delicious, consistent eating experience balanced against the factors​ that drive consumers to seek your brand.

The sweet spot between core and supplemental    

Throughout our proprietary qualitative research on protein drivers, it became clear that a protein decision is split between “core foods” and “supplemental foods”. Core foods such as lentils, eggs, and traditional meats, are tied to social and emotional needs as part of a scheduled eating experience. Drivers include taste, cost, and social norms.

Conversely, supplemental foods such as bars, shakes, and powders are chosen based on convenience and lifestyle. These products are scrutinized more closely for their nutrition, health, and wellness claims, with consumers having a specific function in mind when they choose to consume them.

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Plant-based proteins straddle the line between the two. Taste, health, and sustainability all bubble to the forefront of purchase drivers, but there is a growing skepticism on the ability for these products to deliver on their brand promise.

Whether it misses the mark on taste and texture expectations, mixed messaging, or poor nutritional content, brands must work harder to earn repeat purchases and eventual brand loyalty. But, as our plant-based meat attitudes and usage study demonstrates, actioning these opportunities involves a holistic and balanced approach.

Balancing brand loyalty drivers    

To supplement the qualitative research, Ingredion also conducted a deep dive into the attitudes and usage of major plant-based meat brands in the US. Our goal was to uncover broad opportunities and brand-specific guidance.

Results of this study showed that while consumers are aspirational in their reasons for coming to the category, they still list taste and texture as their top reason for purchasing. Overall, meeting expectations on taste, ingredient labels, and sustainability stories are key drivers to establishing brand trust and value.

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None of these alone represent a singular plug-and-play solution to enhance brand performance. An examination of a multitude of brands demonstrated that each are at their own stage of their brand journey.

Some brands are struggling with awareness and trial, indicating that their brand story may not be resonating as strongly with their target consumers. Others have invested largely into marketing the product but have failed to meet customer expectations on taste and texture. Regardless of their stage, all are seeking to convert awareness into trial and start their consumers on a path toward adoption, retention, and, eventually, brand loyalty.

Seek a sustainable, holistic approach to value    

Whether it is helping you craft the sustainable vision of your brand or co-creating to deliver the taste and texture that brings your consumer back for more, Ingredion can help. Partner with us to leverage:

  • Proprietary plant-based meat consumer and brand level insights
  • Plant-based meat technical & formulation expertise
  • Pilot plant capabilities including versatile cold room and equipment setup
  • A broad portfolio of plant-based ingredients including all-in-one system solutions

Via our plant-based heritage and deep understanding of consumers at an ingredient level, Ingredion is here to bring your plant-based vision to life. We have the facilities, equipment, process expertise, and flexibility to help you rapidly produce your next product.

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