Recent research from product innovation firm Mattson1 finds that in the wake of the pandemic, customers are prioritizing value, nostalgia, indulgence and plant-based when it comes to food . The first three make sense; with a recession on the horizon, people are turning to food for comfort and familiarity. But plant-based surprised me!
As part of our new Ask an Expert series, I “sat down” (via Zoom) with Christina Meyer-Jax — MS, RDN, LDN, content consultant and all-around food brand badass — to discuss the plant-based trend.
Allison: You’ve called out plant-based as an up-and-coming trend for a while now — why do you think that’s the case?
Christina: At the end of 2019, one-third of US consumers were actively choosing to reduce their meat consumption. A recent Nestlé report found that 87% of Americans are now including a plant-based protein in their diets, and the plant-based market will reach $480.43 billion by 2024. These numbers really show the shift in mainstream eating patterns.
But why? As with most things, it’s based on several factors. According to recent research by Mintel, these factors include concern for the environment, health, ethics, and diversity in protein sourcing. I’d also include curiosity about cuisine types that are traditionally more plant-based.
With animal protein supply chain concerns stemming from the COVID-19 epidemic, this diversity in protein sourcing could be a growing factor in the need and interest in plant-based eating.
Allison: What are some of the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet?
Christina: You don’t have to go all the way to an all-plant diet to make a difference. Just adding a few more servings of plant-based foods brings more micronutrients and fiber to a person’s diet and can potentially combat negative dietary attributes. Research suggests additional benefits, ranging from maintaining a healthy weight, lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and improved mood.
The planet will be a huge winner in this shift as well. Many have heard how resource-intensive raising animals is, but how much of an impact does shifting to one plant-based meal a day actually have? According to a report from the United Nations, by choosing one plant-based meal a day for a year, a person can save almost 200,000 gallons of water (that’s 11,400 showers!) and the pollution equivalent of about 3,000 miles driven in a car (roughly LA to NYC).
If that’s not reason enough, adopting a more plant-forward diet also decreases food ruts and boredom.
Allison: So you mean to tell me plant-based is not in conflict with indulgence and comfort?
Christina: Absolutely not! Some of my favorite new recipes include perfect plant substitutes in desserts, such as avocado chocolate mousse, coconut cream cheesecake, and pre-made Kakookies (which is how I get my better-for-you cookie fix!)
Even the least sexy produce like brussels sprouts can be both comforting and indulgent when roasted in avocado oil with pine nuts and “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s. Experimenting with new methods, cuisines, and seasonings is what makes plant-based both nutritious and delicious.
Allison: In the article, the author shared, “demand for plant-based is not a trend, it’s a mindset shift” — can you elaborate on that concept?
Christina: Food consumption patterns change over time, both on individual and cultural levels. Cereal as an American breakfast staple didn’t come into fashion until the 1950’s — it took a few decades to catch on, but when it did, it dominated the morning table.
The idea of what constitutes a meal has many variables, but ultimately it comes down to the highest priority. Is it health, values, convenience, cost, taste, or cultural norm? For plant-based eating, I believe we are seeing a reflection of many of these variables in choosing to have animal protein in smaller portions and seeing plants become the star of the show.
Allison: Are there any specific plant-based trends you’re excited about?
Christina: I’m personally a fan of the rise in oatmilk and all the products that are using it. The texture and taste of oat milk and oat milk ice cream really mimics the dairy experience.
I’m very excited about the new plant-based seafood alternatives such as Good Catch that are made from lentils and algae oil to mimic seafood’s flavor, texture, and health benefits.
Let us know what other topics you’d like Christina and I to tackle! We’d love to hear from you.
About the Author: Agency Director Allison Wasz is a holistic thinker and digital marketing expert through and through. She lives and breathes digital — strategy, social media, paid search, user experience, and content generation are part of her day-to-day. Allison’s drive to understand the ‘why’ behind every action makes her well-suited to helping businesses of all sizes and across all industries develop and implement their digital marketing strategies. She believes in an educational approach to digital strategy, empowering clients to grasp how digital works in tandem with traditional marketing. Allison is a coffee drinker, part-time yogi, and red wine aficionado who spends her free time eating guacamole and patiently waiting for the next George R.R. Martin book.