Plant-Based Moving Forward
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
While the excitement surrounding some plant-based categories seems to be waning, consumers are still seeking plant-based alternatives across the store. Sherry Frey, vice president of total wellness for NielsenIQ, states that 17% of consumers report they currently eat a plant-forward diet, and in 2022 there were over 690,000 consumer searches on retailer websites for plant-based products. These foods seem to hit the sweet spot between many trends – delivering healthy benefits for both people and the planet. Here are five reasons why experts predict more plants will be on the plate in 2023 and beyond.
- Plant-Based Versions of Favorites: Shoppers will see more of their favorite brands launching plant-based alternatives to popular products. In addition, companies will be launching plant and non-plant options in tandem instead of separately. Ben & Jerry’s for example, recently launched new sundaes in Europe using this approach and feel that their consumers are expecting to be offered both dairy and non-dairy options at the same time.
- Convenient Offerings: Plant-based food choices are going to be even more accessible and convenient in the future. From fast food menu items to meal kits and recipe inspiration, consumers will be able to find everyday solutions for easy plant-forward meals. For instance, Knorr product packs carry plant-based recipes, and more manufacturer websites are offering plant-forward meal ideas. At retail, ecommerce is also expected to add more plant-based prompts to meet the needs of growing vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles.
- Private Brand Expansion: Private brands are adding more plant-based products to their portfolio. For instance, Kroger’s Simple Truth Plant-Based collection has expanded their selection of affordable, high-quality products and will continue to drive category growth. In 2021, Target Corp. added a plant-based line to its Good & Gather food and beverage brand and has more than 30 products for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Good & Gather Plant Based aims to differentiate their offerings by focusing on unique flavors with products like Everything Seasoned Cashew Dip and Spread and Caramel Vanilla Almond-Milk Creamer.
- Naturally Plant-Based Foods: Expect to see more naturally plant-based foods being promoted as convenient, affordable options for those seeking plant-forward menus. Fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, grain products and legumes can all be included in the plant-based conversation. Beans, for example, have an incredible story to tell regarding sustainability, affordability and nutrition and can now be found in a variety of products including snacks, pasta, and in convenient heat-and-eat seasoned pouches. In fact, a new campaign, Beans Is How, is focused on doubling global bean consumption by 2028.
- Sustainable Solutions: Consumers are increasingly aware of the food system’s climate impact and are making that part of their purchasing decision. Plant-based brands will increase their communications regarding the climate impact of their products and may increase their use of sustainability claims to drive sales and loyalty.