42% of global consumers are ‘flexitarian’, driving shift to plant-based diets

A worldwide surge in flexitarianism has fueled the rise of plant-based foods globally, a new report highlights. With more than two-fifths of global consumers actively reducing their meat consumption (especially the post-90s and 00s), researchers expect both large multinational food conglomerates and smaller brands to continue to diversify their plant-based products and Introduce new product categories.

A new report from Euromonitor has found that plant-based foods are becoming more popular globally, driven largely by the rise of flexitarianism. Although the number of vegans and vegans has increased, it is only a drop in the bucket compared to the large number of flexitarian consumers around the world. These flexitarian consumers are actively restricting foods of animal origin, and while not completely eliminating all animal products from their diets, figures show this group accounts for 42% of the market. By comparison, vegans and vegans account for only 4% and 6% of global consumers.

vegetarian diet

The researchers also found that younger consumers were more likely to reduce their meat and dairy intake compared to older generations. Based on the 2020 findings, the study found that 54% of Gen Z (born between 1995-2009) are avoiding meat and animal products, compared with only 34% of Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) people are doing it.

By region, Australia has a higher proportion of flexitarians – with more than 45 per cent of respondents saying they are limiting their intake of animal products, followed by the UK and US markets. The figures match the findings of a recently published Food Frontiers report detailing the “huge growth” of Australia’s plant-based food industry over the course of 2020.

At the same time, the term ‘plant-based’ has temporarily fallen out of favor in all regions, although the report expects this trend to reverse, as the number of flexitarian consumers around the world continues to increase,” The inclusiveness of the term “plant-based” will have some appeal to this group.

plant-based diet

The term “plant-based” can be seen as a more inclusive and engaging term. It aligns with the current global “eat more vegetables, less meat” veggie-eating view of life – that is, reducing the consumption of foods of animal origin, but not necessarily eliminating them from the diet completely. Maria Mascaraque, Industry Manager for Food and Nutrition at Euromonitor, said: “In the future, concepts that are compatible with flexitarian lifestyles, such as ‘plant-based’, are expected to flourish. And the US is leading this trend ( Mainly in the field of meat substitutes).”

Speaking of opportunities in the plant-based industry, the report expects the growing demand for plant-based foods to drive the industry towards diversification and entry into new product categories. For example, as plant-based ice cream and yogurt begin to enter the market in a big way, researchers believe that plant-based alternatives to cream, cheese and yogurt will be key categories for innovation in the dairy alternative industry.

Other plant-based food and beverage areas of interest in the report’s analysis include plant-based desserts, such as gelatin- and honey-free confectionery, and custard-free bakery and pastries. The report notes that more food companies will move beyond vegan-friendly breads to plant-based pastries. “Given the low penetration of vegan-friendly products in these categories, more manufacturers are expected to enter these segments in the coming years,” the report said.

Euromonitor analyst Mascaraque added:

“The plant-based trend has revolutionized the future of the packaged food industry and it should be at the center of business strategy.