Written by Alisa - 3 Minutes reading time

Vegetarians dissatisfied with current plant-based options, says research

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Vegetarians are not satisfied with the choice of products available to them, according to new research. Based on responses by 1,000 consumers in the USA and UK, the net satisfaction rate among vegetarians was +8%, a drastic decline from +47% in 2018.

"There’s been loads of fantastic innovation in the plant-based space in recent years, but many of the newer products on the market are 100% vegan. That’s great if you’re vegan, but perhaps it’s less compelling if you’re a vegetarian. Or, at least, that’s what the findings of our survey suggest," Richard Clarke, managing director of Ingredient Communications, which conducted the research.

"More research is needed to confirm this hypothesis. But clearly there’s something going on that means vegetarians feel less well served than vegans."

High levels of dissatisfaction and declining net satisfaction rates among vegetarians indicate a concerning trend that needs further scrutiny, he adds.

"Of particular interest is that fewer vegetarians find plant-based meat and dairy products appealing. This might help to explain why net satisfaction levels are so much lower among these consumers.”

Negative swing in numbers

The survey states that in the US, net satisfaction among vegetarians has slumped from +38% in 2018 to -10% now, a negative swing of 48%. In the UK, net satisfaction among vegetarians has slipped by 35%, from +55% in 2018 to +20% in the latest survey. For vegans, however, the net satisfaction has risen from +2% in 2018 to +17% at present. In the US, the number stands at -3 % versus 9% in 2018. In the UK, net satisfaction is +25%, compared with +28% five years ago.

Plant-based perceptions

The survey was conducted in September 2023 by market research experts at SurveyGoo, who also asked participants about their perceptions of particular plant-based products. The findings attempted to understand the reason behind the spike in vegetarian consumers’ dissatisfaction.

"Our survey suggests that while brands and retailers have done a fantastic job serving vegans, it might be time to give vegetarians some attention with new products tailored to them," Clarke tells us.

When asked to rate how appealing they found plant-based meat products, 95% of vegan respondents said they “looked tasty,” compared with 56% of vegetarians. Based on the study, vegans depicted a higher preference for plant-based concepts as compared to vegetarians, with 91% of vegans stating they found alt-dairy products appealing. Conversely, only 60% of vegetarians favoured alt-dairy foods.

Consumers demand diversity

Considering the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the F&B industry has significant opportunities for innovations that please consumers’ taste buds while diversifying product offerings.

Innova Market Insights data indicates that 44% of consumers want improved flavor in plant-based products. This can be brought about by companies focusing on new technologies that help innovation bring nutrition and taste together.

For instance, fermentation is one technique that offers a way to formulate improved plant-based trends among non-dairy cheese and chocolate confectionery. To illustrate this process, the market researcher says that the chocolate company Planet A Foods uses fermentation to create 100% cocoa-free chocolate. Other methods that F&B innovators are turning to are 3D printing, precision fermentation and even fungal protein.

“There are many benefits to a vegan lifestyle, and there are many great products out there to cater to the needs of vegans. But the question has to be asked: in the rush to go 100% plant-based, have brands and retailers neglected the needs of vegetarians, who are usually happy to eat dairy and egg ingredients? If so, are more hybrid products the answer?” questions Clarke.

“The findings of our survey reinforce the golden rule of food manufacturing: using the very best ingredients to deliver an excellent eating experience is essential. The days have long gone when vegans and veggies were simply grateful to have something – anything – they could eat. They want and expect the best,” he concludes.

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Also published by Foodingredientsfirst.com

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