IMF launches “Power of Plant-Based Foods and Beverages” report
IMF – The Food Industry Association has published the first-ever “Power of plant-based foods and beverages 2022“, its first comprehensive review of the plant sector, covering natural plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, as well as alternatives to traditional animal products. According to the analysis – the latest in the series of IMF “Power of” reports covering several categories – almost half (42%) of shoppers put a lot or little effort into choosing foods or beverages made with plants.
“More than 40% of shoppers at least occasionally eat an alternative to meat, dairy or seafood, but dairy substitute sales are more than double those of meat alternatives,” noted Steve Markenson, director of research and insights for the Arlington, Va.-based company. MFI. “The plant-based foods most likely to be consumed regularly by shoppers are naturally plant-based: fruits and vegetables (75%) and beans, nuts or grains (47%).”
Buyer feedback highlighted confusion regarding plant-based foods and beverages and a lack of knowledge about the key attributes of these items. The majority of shoppers surveyed said the word “healthy” comes to mind when they think of plant-based foods and beverages. Others associated plant-based foods with words such as “vegan”, “vegetarian”, “organic” or “natural”.
“Our ethnographic research suggests that consumers seek out plant-based foods and beverages primarily for taste and nutrition,” observed Krystal Register, FMI’s senior health and wellness director and registered dietitian. “The food industry has the opportunity to provide advice and educate consumers on holistic healthy eating approaches that include plant-based options in accordance with dietary guidelines.”
FMI Fresh Foods Vice President Rick Stein suggested how retailers could work with shoppers to better define where these categories appear in stores. “There is no consensus among shoppers on where to find plant-based alternatives, which demonstrates the opportunity for both cross-merchandising in addition to creative in-store messaging,” said Stein said. “For instancefor meat alternatives, the first choice isn’t the meat department – it’s a dedicated plant-based section and the frozen food section, followed by the meat department.
The research also found that curiosity is a key characteristic of buyer experimentation. Millennials are more likely than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to make an effort to choose plant-based foods, and nearly half of shoppers who buy plant-based foods and beverages live in earning households. over $100,000 and have children. Shoppers interested in these foods and beverages tend to have larger baskets, but they are also shopping online.
“As the focus of plant-based products expands beyond meat and dairy alternatives and we see ‘plant-based’ marketing claims on food and beverage products, the segment is now worth nearly $10 billion,” said Sherry Frey, vice president of total wellness at Chicago-based NielsenIQ, who sponsored the report and provided sales data and analysis. “This research comes at a critical inflection point that will help the industry understand consumers and their drivers around plant-based decisions.”
The report’s comprehensive methodology included a consumer survey, digital consumer ethnography, consumer interviews, retailer and manufacturer interviews, and sales data review.
IMF hosted a digital seminar on July 27 with Markenson, Register and Frey, where the findings of the report were discussed, including the interesting finding that shoppers would prefer to see plant-based meat products in a designated section and the frozen food aisle rather than the meat department itself. When analyzing shopper perceptions, Register and Frey noted the importance of “friendliness” in consumer adoption of plant-based foods and beverages, i.e. determining how these products relate specifically to themselves and their families. Also during the hour-long seminar, interactive polls were offered to engage attendees, and some of their questions were addressed.