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Webinar summary: A healthier way to indulge? How to position plant-based foods to maximise their appeal

(1 min read)

ProVeg International has partnered with Innova Market Insights to bring you a webinar which explores the key ways that your company can position plant-based products to maximise consumer appeal. Read on to learn more about how to market your brand to truly resonate with consumers, and how to harness today’s top trends to boost your bottom line.

Innova is a global intelligence company that uses technology and research to help consumers make data-driven decisions. Utilising Innova’s exclusive data and insights, Myrthe de Beukelaar, Senior Market Analyst at Innova Market Insights, highlights the key trends in the food and beverage industry in 2022. Throughout the webinar, she touches on a range of developments within the plant-based sector, including the use of storytelling devices in marketing and the growing intersection between healthy and indulgent plant-based products. For more detailed information about this webinar and the key insights and data used in the presentation please reach out to [email protected].

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Key trends in the food-and-beverage industry

Each year, Innova releases a list of the top trends they’ve identified within the food-and-beverage industry.

Innova webinar
[1]

The top trend for 2022 revolves around the theme of ‘Shared Planet’, with the industry continuing to incorporate environmental messaging into branding and marketing, promoting a narrative of planetary responsibility, trust, and transparency.

‘Plant-based: the canvas for innovation’ was the second-ranking trend of 2022, indicating that plant-based products are becoming more than just an alternative to animal-based products. Plant-based products are now the forerunners of innovation in the food-and-beverage industry, and these technological developments are setting the pace for the industry as a whole.

Telling a values-driven story

The mainstream appeal of plant-based products is consistently growing, and consumer demand continues to shape the canvas for innovation.

According to Innova’s research, the top four reasons consumers would consider plant-based alternatives in 2020 were:

  1. Health
  2. Variety
  3. Planet
  4. Taste

However, in 2021, the reasons changed to:

  1. Health
  2. Planet
  3. Variety
  4. Values and belief alignment
Top 4 reasons to consider plant-based alternatives
[2]

While taste is still important – it was the fifth-leading driver of consumer behaviour in 2021, it is clear there has been a slight shift in what matters to consumers.

Taste is still a very important driver for consumers, but we do see that those additional elements [such as health and sustainability] are very important in the overall purchasing decision. These are gaining ground…when it comes to consumer positionings.”

Myrthe de Beukelaar

Senior Market Analyst at Innova Market Insights

In response to these changing motivations, brands are positioning themselves accordingly. This has meant an increased emphasis on the nutritional value of a product and its environmental credentials (such as upcycled ingredients).

A key way for a company to successfully tie these consumer motivations together is through storytelling. By pulling together disparate elements under the umbrella of a brand’s mission, a company can craft a cohesive story that appeals to consumers.

Myrthe cites the brand Cleveland Kitchen as an example of a company whose products contain only locally sourced and organic ingredients. The company is able to tie the health and environmental benefits of their products together by proclaiming their home-grown values and telling a story about their proud Cleveland heritage.[3]

Cleveland Kitchen products
Cleveland Kitchen’s branding tells a story of sustainability and organic local sourcing. [4]

Such brand stories are crafted with the intention of resonating with consumers and their values: consumption of mission-driven products becomes a way for consumers to affirm their identity and sense of belonging.

With values and belief alignment becoming one of the top-four consumer motivations for purchasing plant-based products, it is obvious that this is an effective marketing strategy. By recognising and reinforcing the internal values of consumers, companies are increasingly targeting the emotional experience of the individual. Healthy products, in particular, now not only impact a person’s bodily health but also their emotional wellbeing and happiness.

Health-Based Messaging

Innova’s research suggests that, for consumers, health is not just about nutrition. Globally, 28% of consumers consider environmental wellbeing to be included within the spectrum of health. Not only are healthy foods good for our bodies, but they can also be good for the planet.

This marks a shift in consumer perspective, with the health of the planet becoming a top global issue for consumers, surpassing concerns over the health of the global population. There is now a major focus on emotional health, environmental health and happiness, alongside traditional nutritional health.

To capitalise on the desire for environmental and nutritional health, many brands are attempting to tap into the potential of nutrient-dense ingredients such as fungi. Companies like Meati Foods and Bosque Foods are working with fermentation technology to develop mycelium-based meat alternatives, including whole cuts.

However, companies need not focus on ‘new’ ingredients to take advantage of the growing demand for healthy plant-based foods. Myrthe suggests that simply repositioning well-known ingredients to seem new and exciting is an effective way to draw in consumers.

Cutting Vedge product
Cutting Vedge is an example of a brand that has repositioned a familiar ingredient – artichokes – as an exciting new product for consumers to try.[5]

Mastering plant-based indulgence

The development of on-the-go snacking

Myrthe suggests that a close look at consumer behaviour in relation to on-the-go snacking reveals interesting insights into consumer preferences for healthy and indulgent snacks.

A survey conducted by Innova shows that 36% of consumers choose a healthy snack to eat while travelling so that they can indulge later in the day. 25% of those interviewed choose to compromise on their desires and pick a healthy alternative to snack on instead of buying an indulgent product. In other words, 61% of consumers consider health when buying on-the-go snacks.37% of consumers interviewed by Innova say their indulgent healthy snacking has increased, with only 8% citing a decrease. There is thus demand for healthy, on-the-go snacks – especially those which straddle the categories of healthy and indulgent. If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, check out ProVeg International’s whitepaper Plant-based profit: lucrative low-risk product ranges.

The demand for indulgent plant-based products

According to Innova research, at least one in five consumers are looking for more plant-based treats on the shelves. 22% of consumers would like to see an increase in plant-based ice cream and frozen desserts, as well as chocolate and baked goods. 

The industry has been quick to respond, and the market has seen a 46% increase in food and beverage launches that have a plant-based and indulgence claim, indicating it is an accelerating segment. Moreover, Smart Protein’s pan-European report on the plant-based food sector highlights strong growth in plant-based baked goods and a 94% increase in plant-based confectionery in the UK market between 2019 and 2020.[6]

Consumers are also increasingly searching for high-quality alternatives to meat and dairy products, including quality confectionery and indulgent treats. To effectively tap into this segment of consumers searching for higher quality, indulgent plant-based foods, companies must seek out new strategies.

Such strategies should primarily seek to improve:

  • The taste and texture of the product
  • Consumer knowledge regarding the product’s ingredients and manufacturing

One effective way to improve both the taste and texture of the product as well as the consumer’s knowledge is to utilise familiar technologies.

Myrthe highlights the dairy manufacturing technologies of pasteurisation and fermentation, as well as enzyme technology. Many consumers are already familiar with these techniques and so it makes sense to employ similar technologies for the production of plant-based alternatives, where possible. This will aid in improving a product’s taste and texture while also assuaging consumer worries about how it is processed.

At the same time, exciting developments in cellular agriculture present a game-changing opportunity for the next generation of indulgent foods. Innova’s research suggests that one in two consumers think that cell-based technologies can be part of the future of the food industry.

Plant-based brands must negotiate this trade-off between new technological developments and consumer familiarity. 

Driving Acceptance of New Technologies

Myrthe suggests one way to do this is by focusing once again on storytelling devices, amplifying indulgent descriptors and harnessing consumers’ overarching desire for health and sustainability.

According to Innova, health is a huge driver for getting consumers to accept novel food-processing technologies. However, it is essential to acknowledge cultural  differences in terms of what will motivate consumers to accept these new technologies.

In Europe, the driving factors of acceptance are linked to health and the reduction of harm to people and the planet. However, in Asia, improved health and safety are key drivers. For North Americans, acceptance of novel food-processing technologies is driven by health and taste.

Myrthe highlights Natreve’s Mooless animal-free-whey protein powder and its ‘no-compromise’ approach to nutrition. By utilising fermentation technology, Mooless’ product taps into the plant-based market while also crafting a story of science-driven health benefits.

Simultaneously, its flavour range – including ‘vanilla bean cupcake’ and ‘strawberry shortcake’ – takes advantage of consumers’ desire for taste. Finally, by highlighting the reduction in environmental harm achieved through the consumption of their product, Natreve checks off three key worries of global consumers in one go.[7]

Mooless Protein powder
Mooless’ protein-powder flavours include strawberry shortcake, vanilla bean cupcake, cookies and cream, and chocolate fudge brownie.[8]

Circular Economy in the Food and Beverage Industry

Embracing a circular economy approach is another key trend within the food and beverage industry, linking to Innova’s top ‘Shared Planet’ trend, as well as the increase in  upcycling. The industry has seen 69% average annual growth in products launched with a food waste or upcycling claim, showing that these trends are cementing themselves in the mainstream.

In order to capitalise on this, brands need to be creative in the way they promote their upcycling initiatives and ensure that their message is clear, authentic, and effective. One way to do this is to become ‘Upcycled Certified’, a certification bestowed by the Upcycled Food Association.[9] This makes claims of sustainability more tangible for the consumer and promotes the trustworthiness of a brand.

UFA - Upcycled Certified label
[10]

Furthermore, initiatives by the likes of Fresh Factory are accelerating the growth of food-and-beverage brands by offering services above and beyond those offered by traditional manufacturers. Their ‘Fresh Start’ brand-accelerator programme offers expertise in fresh, clean-label, and plant-based products, helping startup brands to embrace aspects of the circular economy.

This is an example of a successful collaboration between companies. Myrthe highlights collaborations as one of the key ways that new plant-based and alternative-protein products are being marketed to consumers. One in two consumers have stated they would like to see more collaborations between companies to create more indulgent flavours and better texture, and to promote product innovation. Moreover, by promoting collaborations between plant-based brands and food services, consumers are able to experience novel, indulgent products in new and exciting ways.

Collaborations are opening doors for more health and indulgence opportunities.”

Myrthe de Beukelaar

Senior Market Analyst at Innova Market Insights

Key Takeaways

For brands seeking to promote the sale of their plant-based products, Myrthe recommends:

  1. Promoting health-forward messaging
  2. Mastering plant-based indulgence
  3. Collaborating for health and indulgence

These three directives encompass several of the key food-and-beverage trends of 2022, as highlighted by Innova.

The thread which connects these ideas is the theme of storytelling. Cohesive brand identity can tie together health, indulgence, and corporate collaborations, while reflecting consumer beliefs and identity. 

However, in your brand’s attempt to appeal to consumers by harnessing any of the industry trends – whether it be sustainability, plant-based, or new technologies – it is essential to remain authentic.

I would be cautious with a very health-forward or sustainability-forward [message] which overshadows the other aspects. Unless it is a core part of your brand’s appeal to consumers, it might backfire. It needs to make sense within the overall storytelling of your brand and product.”

Myrthe de Beukelaar

Senior Market Analyst at Innova Market Insights

Consumers are not sheep, and they know when brands are inconsistent. It’s better to attempt to mobilise trends that already align with elements of your brand’s mission. Consumers will see this as more credible and won’t be confused by what otherwise feels like a total rebrand or an inauthentic money grab.

If you would like to know more about the top trends in the food-and-beverage industry, storytelling devices, or the growing demand for healthy and indulgent foods, make sure you watch the full recording of this webinar.

Convenience by design: how to make plant-based products easy for consumers and attractive to flexitarians

For more comprehensive insights make sure to check out our whitepaper on this topic.

If you’re still hungry for more, you can find further insight into similarly fascinating topics at ProVeg International’s New Food Hub. Don’t waste any time in finding out all the ways you can accelerate your company’s transition to net zero, increase your profits, and help to build a better world!

References

References
1, 2 Data source: Innova Market Insights, Image source: ProVeg
3 Cleveland Kitchen. About: Sustainability and integrity. Available at: https://www.clevelandkitchen.com/pages/about. Accessed 2022-05-17
4 Image source: Cleveland Kitchen: https://www.clevelandkitchen.com/
5 Image source: Cutting Vedge: https://cuttingvedge.com/products/
6 Smart Protein Project (2021): Plant-based foods in Europe: How big is the market? Smart Protein Plant-based Food Sector Report, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (No 862957). Available at: https://smartproteinproject.eu/plant-based-food-sector-report. Accessed 2022-05-18
7 Natreve. The Whey of the Future. Available at: https://www.natreve.com/pages/mooless. Accessed 2022-05-17.
8 Image source: Natreve: https://www.natreve.com/pages/mooless
9 Upcycled Food Association. Upcycled Certified. Available at: https://www.upcycledfood.org/certification. Accessed 2022-05-17.
10 Image source: Upcycled Food Association: https://www.upcycledfood.org/certification

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