Rabobank: Plant-based should rethink meat-mimicking strategy

The plant-based movement should focus less on mimicking the taste, texture and mouthfeel of meat and more on nutrition and clean ingredient to reach consumers, according to a new report from Rabobank.

“Broadly speaking, the winning players in plant-based will be the ones who understand the importance of delivering great taste and overall eating experience at similar price to premium meat, with few and natural ingredients,” wrote JP Frossard, VP, consumer foods analyst, Rabobank.

“And they will increasingly reference the nutritional benefits of plants – something that seems to have been forgotten by most players, who still make plant-based all about meat instead of focusing on plants.”

Plant-based protein sales plateau

Sales of plant-based meat alternatives grew 47% in in 2020 and remained strong throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic.

However, that tide has turned. Retail dollars for the U.S. market segment dropped 9% in the first quarter of 2023. In addition, plant-based meat alternatives have failed to capture more than a fraction of the global animal protein market.

Plant-based protein consumers have also begun to question the nutritional and clean-label claims of these products.

“Besides subjective (but critical) discussions on taste – still the king and queen of all consumer preferences – consumers started realizing that plant-based meat alternatives aren’t exactly plants but rather ultraprocessed products made primarily of concentrated or isolated plant proteins from a handful of crops,” Frossard wrote.

Strategies for future plant-based success

Instead of focusing on mimicking meat, plant-based proteins can succeed by highlighting the benefits of plants. This is appeal to more than vegans and vegetarians, the report said.

Flexitarians – who still eat meat but are looking to add more plants to their diets – want a product with clean ingredients, the flexibility to be included in different recipes and is something that they feel is good for the planet and animals.

Attend the 2023 Chicken Marketing Summit

At the 2023 Chicken Marketing Summit, Frossard will discuss the current state of the alternative protein market and share projections about the challenges and opportunities in this segment.

The 2023 Chicken Marketing Summit will be held at Hotel Effie Sandestin in Miramar Beach, Florida on Monday, July 31 – Wednesday, August 2, 2023. Serving a unique cross section of the chicken supply chain, Chicken Marketing Summit explores issues and trends in food marketing and consumer chicken consumption patterns and purchasing behavior.

Registration is now open.

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