The holidays are a time for spending time with family and friends and reflecting on the past year. For many companies, the holidays are also a time for taking stock of product innovations, assessing emerging trends, and finding creative ways to boost end-of-year sales.
While traditional meat-based proteins are still the go-to for traditional holiday meals, a growing number of enthusiasts are choosing alternative proteins as the centerpiece for their tables. In this blog post, we take a look at emerging plant-based trends and the alternative meats that may alter the future of holiday dinners.
Plant-based meat is a substitute for animal protein that is typically made from plants, such as soy. It often has a similar taste and texture to traditional meat products, making it a nice alternative in any dish that traditionally calls for meat. People who buy this product are typically looking for a meat substitute that tastes like the real thing. They also tend to worry about the environment and holistic wellness.
Meatless meats are becoming more common as people become more conscious of their health and the environment. With new companies entering the plant-based meat space, this holiday season is seeing more innovation than ever before.
Data from Evergi’s Plant-based Meat report found that Americans are increasingly adding plant-based foods to their diets — and the trend isn't limited to vegans or vegetarians. The 2022 study found that nearly 10% of consumers surveyed had purchased plant-based meat in the past three months. Social trends such as “Meatless Monday,” which got its start in 2003, have significantly boosted consumer awareness and demand of meatless alternatives. According to the campaign, over a third of surveyed consumers say that “Meatless Monday” influenced their decision to include less meat in their diets. Interestingly enough, many of these consumers are still buying meat products while choosing to supplement their diets with plant-based meats.
Although inflation and decreased household income have hampered plant-based meat alternative sales in 2022, experts believe the market is still poised for growth. While the latest Evergi survey revealed that the the number one stressor for consumers was money, it also revealed a growing trend of consumers who are concerned about global warming and believe plant-based alternatives are better for the environent. Consumers are also continuing to discuss plant-based alternatives on social media with social posts about plant-based products increasing 0.10% in just a few months.
Despite economic woes, interest in plant-based meat alternatives is expected to trend upwards during the last few months of the year.
Sales of plant-based meat alternatives tend to increase in the holiday season along with general retail spending, with consumer interest in the products increasing by 0.4% from Q3 2021 to Q4 2021. The National Retail Federation recently announced a healthy holiday retail season forecast, with sales expected to grow between 6% and 8% year over year. The growing number of social posts about plant-based meat alternatives will likely lead to an increase of sales during the 2022 holiday season. Retailers and brands who have already leveraged social channels and have a strong presence on multiple social media platforms will likely benefit from this trend.
Additionally, sustainability is becoming increasingly important to Americans. In fact, a recent Evergi report found that 69% of the general population fall into the sustainable “need state” meaning they have adopted some eco-minded attitudes or behaviors.
The trend of consumer interest in meat alternatives has also boosted innovation in the space. Recent innovation in meat alternatives has made the taste and texture of these products much more realistic, helping new consumers make the switch from traditional meats. Consumers no longer need to master the art of tofu preparation in order to enjoy a plant-based diet. Alternative beef and chicken have been available for years but innovative options such as Tofurky’s Plant-Based Holiday Feast or The Very Good Butchers Stuffed Breast Roast are bringing plant-based meat alternatives to the holiday dinner menu.
Even meat producers who once seemed unlikely to jump on the plant-based meat trend are happily joining in. Well-known meat brands like Hormel and Tyson have launched plant-based brands in the US (Hormel’s Happy Little Plants, Tyson’s Raised & Rooted). Other meat producers are also exploring plant-based alternative in international markets such as Cargill’s PlantEver concept in China. Conagra Brands, the company behind brands like Marie Callender’s and Healthy Choice, is taking an innovative approach to introducing plant-based foods. Conagra has introduced its own plant-based brand, Gardein, into these and other brands. Perdue Chicken Plus takes this a step further by offering chicken nuggets with added vegetables that look and taste like the traditional kind, perfect for the plant and animal-based meat shoppers.
The combination of challenging economic forces and growing consumer interest reveal a plant-based meat alternative market that is ripe for innovation. Savy plant-based meat producers should consider focusing innovation on areas accessible to mid to lower income consumers which have yet to show weakness during this economic downturn. Plant-based products are heavily impacted by consumers’ ability to spend at the market, so helping them justify the added expenditure will go a long way especially during the holiday season.
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