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Plant-based diets: Here to stay or a fleeting fancy?

Posted: Dec 05, 2023 6 minute read GAR 0 Likes

Our dietary choices can not only fuel our bodies but also shape our planet’s well-being. Enter the plant-based diet, a food movement that is gaining momentum in today’s food industry.

Although plant-based diets have existed for a while, they are fuelled by a number of growing individuals who are developing an interest in their food choices – from their origins, to their production methods, health benefits, and environmental impact.

With the global plant-based food market projected to rise and the conscious consumer demographic remaining on the uptrend, plant-based diets are here to stay and grow for consumers around the world.

Read on to delve deeper into the global plant-based diet movement, understand consumer behaviours, explore the business potential of plant-based foods, and uncover the challenges and opportunities in this evolving trend.

Global appetite for plant-based diets is on the upswing

Two decades ago, featuring plant-based foods was uncommon among cafes, restaurants, bars, or food innovations and developments of all kinds. Menus typically offered little beyond a basic garden salad, and vegan-friendly options were less varied than they are today.

As global awareness of animal welfare grows, people are increasingly looking for alternatives to animal farming practices that are more ethical and supportive of animal well-being. Plant-based diets, due to their significantly reduced carbon footprint, are also becoming an appealing option for environmentally-conscious individuals.

Did You Know?

According to the Good Food Institute (GFI), plant-based chicken emits 86 percent fewer GHG emissions than its conventional counterpart. Plant-based and cultivated beef generate respectively 99 percent and 92 percent less emissions than traditional beef.

Health concerns have significantly contributed to the momentum behind these dietary shifts. Numerous studies have consistently highlighted the potential health advantages associated with plant-based diets, which typically have lower levels of saturated fats and cholesterol. These dietary choices have also been linked to a decreased risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and specific types of cancer.

The increasing popularity of plant-based diets is further driven by various contributing factors, including allergies or sensitivities to animal products, economic considerations, and social influence. These factors are projected to lead the global plant-based food market to reach a value of US$35.9 billion by 2033, making it an attractive sector for venture investment.

As plant-based diets evolve and gain ground, they offer a tantalising promise: a more sustainable and healthier way of nourishing ourselves and our planet – one plate at a time.

What is a plant-based diet? What are the different types of plant-based diets?

Vegetarianism, veganism, and the more recent flexitarianism all embrace plant-based foods. While recently experiencing a surge in popularity, plant-based diets have a rich history spanning thousands of years.

Plant-based diets, as the name implies, originate from plant sources, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, cereals, grains, and legumes, and exclude all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. The classification of a plant-based diet varies depending on the extent of exclusion of animal products, resulting in distinctions such as flexitarianism (intermittent consumption of meat or fish), vegetarianism (no animal meat products), and veganism (no products from any animal sources).

Read on through this table to identify a range of plant-based eating patterns.

Eating pattern Meat Fish/Seafood Dairy Eggs
Lacto-ovo vegetarian ✔️ ✔️
Lacto vegetarian ✔️
Vegan
Pescatarian ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Flexitarian/semi-vegetarian Occasionally ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Eating pattern Meat Fish/Seafood Dairy Eggs
Lacto-ovo vegetarian ✔️ ✔️
Lacto vegetarian ✔️
Vegan
Pescatarian ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Flexitarian/semi-vegetarian Occasionally ✔️ ✔️ ✔️

Variations of plant-based diets1

Identifying a range of plant-based eating patterns is paramount for businesses in today’s dynamic market landscape. By recognising and accommodating these diverse dietary choices, companies can tap into a broader customer base and remain competitive.

Why tapping on the plant-based diet movement can be a smart business move

Catering to plant-based diets is not only a smart move but also a conscientious one. Consumers actively seek nutritious, sustainable, and ethical alternatives to traditional animal-based foods, leading to a growing demand for plant-based alternatives. A global survey by Veggly revealed that, out of 8,500 participants, 64 percent were vegan for sustainability reasons, and over 50 percent say that health is the motivating factor. This expanding consumer base presents an immense market opportunity.

The plant-based sector is also ripe for innovation. As consumer preferences evolve, there’s room for creativity and product development in plant-based food, ranging from meat substitutes to dairy alternatives and plant-based snacks. Entrepreneurs and food producers have the chance to develop unique, delicious, and nutritious plant-based products that cater to a wide range of tastes and dietary preferences.

Unlike niche markets that cater to a limited audience, plant-based products have the potential to appeal to a wide range of people. They are a versatile choice for culinary experimentation, no matter what dietary preferences may be. For example, plant-based ground beef can be used in burgers, breakfast sausage, burritos, soups, pizza toppings, and much more, which can positively affect profits.

The increasing number of flexitarians has made plant-based diets an attractive business option. Flexitarians, who primarily eat plant-based but occasionally have meat or fish, are a sizeable and expanding market. Much of the sales growth in the plant-based sector is driven by flexitarians eating more plant-based protein. Businesses can capitalise on this opportunity by offering plant-based products that fit their dietary choices.

Navigating challenges and opportunities in plant-based diets

Plant-based diets offer numerous prospects for food producers and consumers: diverse food options, health advantages, and the chance for product development. However, the plant-based food sector also comes with its share of challenges, such as regulatory complexities, constraints related to taste and texture, and competition from conventional animal-based products.

However, the plant-based food market is ripe with opportunities. As the market continues to expand and innovate, there will likely be many new opportunities for growth and investment. Explore the key challenges and opportunities businesses should consider before entering this industry below.

Key challenges of plant-based food market

Key opprtunities of plant-based food market

Palm oil in the plant-based diet landscape

Palm oil plays a multifaceted role in the plant-based diet landscape, contributing in various ways to the development and appeal of plant-based foods.

One of palm oil’s significant contributions is its ability to enhance the texture and taste of many plant-based foods. Its semi-solid state at room temperature and neutral flavour make it an ideal substitute for traditional dairy fats in plant-based alternatives such as vegan cheeses and ice creams. This versatility allows manufacturers to replicate the creamy mouthfeel and meltability consumers expect from dairy-based counterparts.

Palm oil also provides a functional advantage in plant-based meat substitutes. Its high melting point and ability to maintain stability at high temperatures allow for creating plant-based burgers, sausages, and other meat analogues that sizzle and brown like their animal-based counterparts. This property is crucial in replicating the sensory experience of meat consumption for plant-based consumers.

In a world where dietary trends are often fleeting, plant-based diets have proven to be enduring and steadfast. As more people recognise the benefits of plant-based eating and as innovative plant-based products thrive, palm oil will continue to be an essential element in the continued success of plant-based diets.

 

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Palm oil is a crucial food in the plant-based diet landscape, offering customers and consumers a sustainable alternative for years.

Our specialty fats and other ingredients can help you capitalise on the growing global plant-based movement. Find out more here.

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1 Retrieved from:
https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/healthy-living-and-eating/what-is-plant-based-eating

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