Hold the Meat? Not Quite So Fast
America’s consumers continue to experiment with various approaches to eating — The Hartman Group’s Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report finds half of all Americans have tried an alternative eating approach over the past year, reflecting increased efforts to seek personalized diets that make them feel better, in body, mind, and soul. The prescriptive rules and guidelines of vegetarianism and veganism — both common aspirations — can appeal to those who may worry about whether they are “eating right” in terms of health, ethics, or both.
Our Health + Wellness 2019 report finds that only 9% of consumers have tried out vegetarianism in the last 12 months, while a full 54% of consumers say they would like to include more plant-based foods and beverages in their diets.
While most consumers continue to eat meat (and all the sales data points to an increase in consumption of meat), the frequency with which we hear of vegetarianism and veganism as an aspirational diet points to something else going on. There is a sense that no animal products are healthy. Vegetables, conversely, have such a strong health halo that many believe there is no limit on how much one can healthfully eat.
The aspiration is there for personal health, and it is shored up by a range of emotional and ethical pillars (animal welfare, sustainability, social justice) that give it lasting power.
A growing number of CPG companies are developing investment arms and incubators that take a stake in rapidly developing brands and technologies within the lab-grown and meat-alternative space. Several tech-driven, meat analogue startups are still in R&D/conceptual stages, and they are positioning themselves as animal-free, gateway foods for carnivores. The success of these companies in the future will not be dependent on an increase in vegan or vegetarian eating but rather will be determined by how much acceptance the current flexitarian trend in eating will find in mainstream U.S. food culture.
The opportunity should be framed not so much in meat vs. meatless but in culinary innovation rather than meatless substitutes in age-old dishes and in producing interesting, delicious foods.
Related: Health + Wellness 2019 report