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Global consumer survey: Flexitarians are the driving force behind plant-based foods

Global consumer survey: Flexitarians are the driving force behind plant-based foods

Transparency, sustainability and latest food trends influence flexitarian purchasing decisions

New research results1 show that flexitarian consumers are driving the demand for plant-based food. They are especially interested in transparent labels, sustainability, health and food adventures. The global survey was conducted by the market research agency Insites Consulting, on behalf of BENEO, with 11,990 consumers in 10 countries.

Over recent years the plant-based trend has moved from being niche into the mainstream. With one in four consumers globally calling themselves flexitarians, and only 7% across the world (11% in the UK) identifying themselves as vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian, flexitarians are now the most important target group for manufacturers of plant-based products. Approximately half of flexitarians already buy alternatives to meat (45%) and dairy (49%), with almost one in three also buying plant-based sweets like chocolate (32%). Another third is interested in meat and dairy alternatives - with the right products they can be converted to these categories. That is why understanding the key motivations and expectations of flexitarians are vital for product development and marketing success.

Compared to other consumers, flexitarians are especially interested in sustainability and transparent labels: 84% are concerned about climate change and the environment, 86% want to know how their food is made and what is in it, and 60% consider product quality and traceability labels when shopping (compared to 41% of the general population). This shows the importance for producers of prioritising such information on-pack, to facilitate the purchasing decision process.

Flexitarians transparent labels BENEO

Flexitarians are also interested in health and food adventures. The majority take active steps to make their nutrition healthier, with about 7 in 10 paying attention to on-pack information and nutritional claims (compared to 5 in 10 in the general population). Half of flexitarians want to keep up with the latest food trends, creating exciting product development opportunities for those producers who can meet their demand for more adventurous foods across a range of applications and different cuisines. However, similar to the general population, pleasant taste and texture remain key to repeat purchase for flexitarians.

Three out of four flexitarians agree that meat alternatives should be tender and easy to chew, like real meat (81%), 63% say it is important that plant-based dairy alternatives have a neutral, non-cereal taste and almost half want to see tastier options in the plant-based sweets and bakery aisles.

BENEO offers a range of ingredients and expertise in creating clean and clear label recipe concepts to help meet the increased demand for plant-based foods that deliver both in terms of texture and taste. These include BeneoPro W-Tex, a textured wheat protein with a firm, minced meat like texture after hydration, neutral taste and flavour. It is a delicious and affordable source of protein and is easy to use in a wide range of plant-based applications, such as burgers, nuggets, sausages, chicken strips/filet imitation and ready-meals. Also, BENEO’s range of rice ingredients, deliver creamy and smooth textures, good stability and clean taste for dairy alternatives and plant-based confectionery.

Meat Alternatives

Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO, comments: “Flexitarians are the driving force within the plant-based segment and they are a sophisticated target group: they are looking for a convenient way to include innovative and adventurous taste experiences in their daily diet and aren’t willing to compromise on enjoyment. Delivering on taste and texture is key to building a loyal consumer base. Thanks to ingredients such as those from BENEO it is possible for ‘plant-based’ and ‘indulgence’ to go hand in hand for a wide variety of applications.”

For further details and insights on the consumer research, Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO, is available for comment.

BENEO has long-term experience in developing and producing ingredients from natural sources for food, feed, and pharmaceutical products. These plant-based functional ingredients help improve the nutritional and technical properties of a wide variety of products, by supporting health and optimising taste and texture. The company’s portfolio includes functional carbohydrates from sugar beet, prebiotic chicory root fibre, plant-based proteins and specialty ingredients from rice. Through a unique chain of expertise, including the BENEO-Institute that provides decisive insights into nutrition science and legislation, and the BENEO-Technology Center that consults in application technology, BENEO supports customers by providing ingredients that promote a healthy lifestyle in a holistic way.

Formed in 2007, BENEO is active in over 80 countries, employs more than 1000 people and has five state-of-the-art production sites in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Italy.


1BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 - Insites Consulting conducted an online quantitative survey in July 2021 in Spain, France, Germany, Poland, UK, US, Brazil, Australia, China and Russia: min. 1000 consumers/ country = 11,990 consumers in total; sample of flexitarians = 2905.

Image source: BENEO

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