Catering to the Flexitarian Consumer

Many people are trying more plant-based foods but aren’t going full vegetarian.

July 11, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The number of plant-based innovations hitting the market is on the rise, with options ranging from vegan foods to skin-care products to wines. This is good news for vegetarians, as well as the many consumers now describing themselves as “flexitarians,” Smartbrief reports.

A recent OnePoll survey indicates that 52% of U.S. consumers want more plant-based foods in their diets and that one-third of Americans identify as flexitarians. That trend is seen in consumer purchasing habits. Meat-alternative sales more than doubled between 2013 and 2018, but fresh meat sales also rose during the same period, according to Euromonitor. Obviously, shoppers are seeking a wide range of options when buying foods.

A flexitarian diet combines flexibility with vegetarianism, allowing consumers to enjoy some animal products in moderation, while also adopting some tenets of a vegetarian lifestyle. Flexitarians aren’t necessarily shutting animal products out of their diets. Instead, they are looking to reduce them and to bring in more plant-based foods.

“This trend represents a growing opportunity for high-quality meat alternatives,” said Lu Ann Williams of Innova Market Insights. In response, CPG brands is releasing products that cater to this population. For example, Tyson Foods’ new Raised & Rooted line will include both blended meat items and plant-based meats, while Perdue Foods’ new Chicken Plus line blends chicken with vegetables to make items like nuggets and tenders. This spring, Applegate rolled out two organic burgers that contain blends of mushrooms and meat.

Brands and retailers should keep in mind that although more people are adopting this eating style, they may not label themselves as flexitarians. Therefore, those who are looking to connect with these consumers should share the ingredients of their food offerings rather than advertising them as “flexitarian-friendly.”

To cater to flexitarians—and other shoppers—retailers must ensure that customers can easily find both meats and meat-alternative products. “Where products end up [on store shelves] impacts how people think about them,” said JoAndrea Hoegg, a marketing specialist with the University of British Columbia.

Some supermarkets are placing plant-based meat products in the meat case, while others keep them in the natural foods department or elsewhere in the store. Select grocers say the growth in meat alternative options has boosted sales, but it’s important to watch where consumers are buying these products to ensure that they’re being merchandised in the right area.

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