The Rise of Flexitarians

More people are eating both meat and plant-based alternatives.

August 09, 2019

NEW YORK—Flexitarians are a growing subset of consumers, with more people identifying as those who enjoy both meat and plant-based alternatives, according to a new Nielsen report.

Only about 5% of U.S. households are vegan or vegetarian, leaving 95% as omnivores. Additionally, nearly 60% of U.S. consumers agree that having the right dietary balance of both animal and plant foods is important. What’s more, nearly all (98%) meat alternative buyers also purchase meat, and they do so more than the average meat buyer ($486 versus $478 per year). Less than a third (27%) of meat alternative purchasers buy meat alternative products five or more times a year.

Plant-based meat alternatives are not a passing fad, but scale takes time. Only 21.6% of U.S. households are purchasing meat alternatives, but that’s up 1.6% from last year. As social consciousness and activism continues to accelerate, social causes can drive action.

According to recent Nielsen data, 62% of consumers are willing to reduce meat consumption due to environmental concerns, and 43% say they would replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein. Interestingly, while not yet commercially viable, 12% of consumers stated they would be willing to eat cell-cultured meat grown in a lab. With new innovations, health and wellness and social considerations, plant-based foods will continue to grow.

Accounting for nearly $190 billion in U.S. sales across the store, protein—regardless of what type—is top of mind for consumers.

Currently, chains such as Burger King, Subway, Red Robin, Gourmet Burgers and Brews, White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Dunkin’, Tim Hortons and Del Taco have all introduced or have tested using plant-based meat alternatives, many with success, not withstanding different methods of storage and preparation.