Consumers want the ‘plant’ back in plant-based: report
- Whole Foods Market forecasted a trend of more companies putting the “plant” back in plant-based products, the grocer announced earlier this month in their 2024 predictions report.
- With a focus on protein content, more plant-based products are using ingredients like mushrooms, walnuts, tempeh and legumes in place of complex meat alternatives. Plant-based milks are following suit as well as some brands pump out products with just two ingredients, the report said.
- The plant-based category has faced criticism in recent years, with many consumers growing confused about what classifies a product to be “plant-based,” and whether or not it is healthy.
Leaders in the plant-based category like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have run with the strategy of creating a product that mimics the real thing.
However their recent sales have shown that this strategy may be losing steam with consumers. Beyond Meat, for example, saw its revenue plummet by almost a third last quarter and the company said there was a “considerable gap between the strong health credentials of our products and a broader color narrative that is now a foot, and this gap appears to have widened.”
The second ingredient listed in the El Segundo, California-based company’s popular Beyond Beef patty is expeller-pressed canola oil — which contains trans fats that have been linked to health problems. The product also contains pea protein, rice protein, natural flavors, potato starch and sunflower lecithin. The Impossible burger starts with soy protein concentrate, and has other ingredients like inflammatory sunflower oil and modified food starch.
According to the Whole Foods report, an increasing amount of shoppers are looking for recognizable ingredients in the items they buy.
Brands like Actual Veggies and Meati sell products that align with this trend, according to the report.
Actual Veggie’s Green Burger features ingredients like broccoli, kale, yellow onion and white bean and oats, while having a relatively high protein content. And Meati’s Carne Asada Steaks uses ingredients like mushroom root, salt and fruit juice for color.
Even some plant-based milk brands are moving away from trying to emulate the same creamy texture of dairy milk and focusing on clean ingredients. The Whole Foods report pointed to Three Seeds almond milk, which only contains two ingredients, almonds and water. Bigger companies selling plant-based milk alternatives like Oatly have an “oat base” of oats and water with added ingredients like rapeseed oil.
Like Beyond and Impossible, Oatly is facing headwinds as they reported net losses of $75.6 million last quarter, citing supply chain issues.
An increasing amount of smaller brands in the plant-based space have popped up in recent years, many of which tout themselves as only using healthy, clean ingredients. The report listed Abbot, Atlantic Sea Farm, Smallhold, among others in offering items that fit this emerging consumer interest.