Plant protein products: Beyond Meat, Upton's Naturals, Vega
Plant-based protein claims on products are on the rise.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Food companies that offer products with plant protein should know the three categories of consumers seeking out such products and how to address people by category, according to a Feb. 15 webinar from HealthFocus International.

Product launches with plant-based claims in the United States rose to 320 in 2016, up from 220 in 2015 and 196 in 2014, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. Vegetarians, vegans and “reducers,” or people just wanting to cut down on meat consumption, make up the three categories, according to HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg.



HealthFocus International conducted an on-line survey from June 17 to July 6 in 2016. After people were screened, HealthFocus International identified 1,009 people of the ages 15 to 65 that wanted to reduce meat consumption in some way.

Of the 1,009 people, 50% were vegetarian, 40% were “reducers” and 10% were vegans. People of the ages 15 to 24 were more likely to be vegans and vegetarians. People of the ages 35 and older were more likely to be “reducers.” A majority of the people in all three categories said they like to shop at supermarkets and grocery stores. Vegans and vegetarians were more likely to say they shop at natural food supermarkets, farmers markets, small health food stores and on the internet.

Plant protein chart


The type of protein is becoming more important, according to HealthFocus International. People want to know how protein ingredients are associated with local sourcing, ethical treatment of animals and environmental issues.

Steve Walton, HealthFocus International
Steve Walton, president of HealthFocus International

“We do see wide variations in interest in the type of protein, and consumers focus on where that source comes from,” said Steve Walton, president of HealthFocus International. “So they are getting very particular on the type and the source of that protein.”

Many people are not simply going from meat-based diets to non-meat-based diets.

“A lot of these choices are not either-or,” he said. “They are combinations. So, yes, there are non-meat selections, but we see consumers going for things like skinless chicken, or they are changing the kinds of meat (they eat) to ones that are perceived as healthier.”

Plant protein faces some barriers. Consumers mentioned taste, nutritional sufficiency, convenience, cost, product availability and not knowing how to cook with plant proteins as barriers, according to HealthFocus International. They listed benefits in animal-based proteins as well, including taste (60%) and excellent source of protein (59%).

Boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast
Consumers are opting for proteins they perceive as healthier, such as skinless chicken.

The three primary drivers for consuming more plant protein were long-term health such as heart health, daily health such as energy and weight management, and social reasons such as animal treatment and environment. The HealthFocus International survey found 55% said they think the change in their diet is a permanent lifestyle and 22% said they hope it becomes permanent.

“These changes are not a fad,” Mr. Walton said. “They are a permanent lifestyle.”