Plant-Based Eating Makes Consumers Feel Healthier

A new wave of health consciousness has become ingrained within American culture. Over half of U.S. consumers have started plant-based eating as they are under the impression that it makes them healthier. A majority of consumers have also said that this change was indefinite and some were hindered from making this change because of taste preference.

This new trend has promoted a healthier America, which will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world. Plant-based eating also supports new opportunities for growth in the market for food. Research has shown that these changes are more than simple experimentation and has instead resulted in a new way of life for many consumers.

New Products Follow the Health Trend

These results are not outlandish as there is increasing support for plant-based eating. Companies are beginning to follow consumer health trends and have started to release more plant-based products. About 1/5 of Americans eat a diet consisting of predominantly plant-based foods, while 6/10 have stated that they reduced the amount of meat that they eat.

Plant-Based Eating is for Flexitarians

While in the United States more than half of all consumers are beginning to eat and drink more foods that are plant-based, that number increases to over 65% globally. In addition to this, many people are also decreasing the amount of meat they are eating. Over half say that this change is a permanent one.

People have many reasons for their reduction or outright stopping of the consumption of animal products. Some include wanting to affect the environment positively. Others believe that a meat-free diet is much healthier, some people want to limit the amount of cholesterol they intake, and even still some people prefer the taste of meat-free products.

With each passing year, the number of vegans and vegetarians are increasing in America. A study in 2017 found that about 6% of Americans reported being vegan, while in 2014, that number was only 1%. Again, many people have their reasoning, but it is undeniable that there has been a shift in the way Americans eat. Many people no longer consume animal products at all, something that would be considered odd only a few years ago. However, the growth in flexitarianism and plant-based eating is growing quicker than veganism or vegetarianism because of the stigmas that come with those words.

In 2017, sales of non-meat-based foods were up to over $3 billion, while only a year ago, it was less than $1 billion.

Taste is NOT an Issue

One major concern of many consumers is the difference in taste. However, in recent years there have been many advancements to make plant-based foods much more appealing to the taste preferences of meat lovers. Shoppers are in awe at the taste of plant-based burgers and other meats which they believe to have an even better flavor than their meaty counterparts.

Even large-scale meat companies are beginning to buy into vegan-friendly companies. Tyson Foods, as well as Dean Foods, have both since invested in small stakes in different plant-based companies. It is very probable that this trend will continue, and large-scale companies will adapt to the needs and wants of the modern consumer.

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Singapore Researchers Discovered Plant-Based Food Preservative

Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore recently discovered a healthy plant-based food preservative that is more beneficial and effective than conventional preservatives. This natural preservative is made up of flavonoids – a group of phytonutrients found in all plants. The flavonoid combination developed by the researchers have strong antioxidant and anti-microbial properties that can inhibit the growth of bacteria thus keeping the food fresh for longer.

They tested the new preservative on meat and fruit juices and it has kept the food fresh for two days in the absence of refrigeration. Lead researcher Professor William Chen noted that the new preservative can provide a low-cost solution in preserving food. In fact, the team is in talks with companies to develop a new food preservative that is healthier compared with artificial preservatives. The findings of the study were published in the journal, Food Chemistry.

Understanding More About Flavonoids

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plants. The main function of flavonoids is to defend the plant against pests, herbivores, and pathogens. They also protect the plan against environmental stress. You can say that flavonoids are part of the plant’s immune system. But aside from protecting plants, they are also responsible for making your favorite fruits and vegetables colorful.

In nature, flavonoids do not have strong anti-microbial activities, but the researchers were able to create a flavonoid that has a stronger antimicrobial activity. They can be further processed via prenylation wherein additional hydrophobic molecules are added to the protein to facilitate cell attachment and increase its antimicrobial molecules. They achieved the stronger flavonoids by implanting the selected flavonoid of the plants into baker’s yeast to create the new plant-based preservative.  This process might sound complicated, but it is actually cheap and easy thus making the natural preservative a cost-effective alternative to artificial preservatives. Early studies also show that the natural plant-based preservative is more effective than artificial preservatives.

Growing Concern on The Use of Artificial Preservatives

There is a growing concern of using artificial preservatives in increasing the shelf-life of food. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning regarding the chemicals in food preservatives particularly the meat products. Meat products such as bacon and hot dogs contain nitrates and nitrates that can interfere with the thyroid hormone thereby affecting the metabolic processes in the body. These compounds can also cause problems with the metabolism as well as linked to cognitive decline.

The new natural preservative obtained from the flavonoids from yeast is brilliant. Many experts wouldn’t have thought that a natural preservative can be made with the help of yeast, which has been used in making beer and in manufacturing vaccines against hepatitis B.

The Future of The Natural Preservative

There is a huge potential for using the new natural preservative. Since there are no pieces of evidence that indicate the dangers of using the natural preservative, it has a huge potential within the food industry. Food industries can utilize this plant-based preservative to create healthier products that are safe to consume by everyone.

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Sales of Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Alternatives Rise 20%

The plant-based food industry is no longer a niche. With many people shifting to this lifestyle, it has moved into the mainstream food culture. The meat and dairy producers are fighting back at all cost. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin introduced the Dairy Pride Act that reserved the word “milk” to products precisely for lactating animal sources. However, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is hands-off with this matter as the consumers are not confused with the term milk especially those made from plant sources. The agency reasoned that the terms are used to help consumers and not to protect selected industries against their competitors.

More Companies Jumping on the Bandwagon

And so instead of fighting against the plant-based food industry, some companies are trying to find out how to use this trend to their advantage. A study from HealthFocus International revealed that 17% of the consumers in the country aged between 15 and 70 years old claim to eat a plant-based diet while 60% are cutting back on dairy and milk products.

With this information, food manufacturing giants are transforming some of their products to meet the demands of the emerging number of plant-based dieters in the country. For example, the company Tyson Foods took a 5% stake in Beyond Meat two years ago. It is interesting to take note that Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat companies, invested in a plant-based company. The plant-based food industry has also added new rosters of companies that are dedicated to making exclusively plant-based food items. These include Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger that have made plant-based proteins more palatable to vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores alike. As such, the plant-based food industry is estimated to hit 5.2 billion within the next two years, and products from these companies are now found in more than 10,000 groceries nationwide.

The growth of the plant-based food industry is also the driver for the expansion of such companies. For instance, Beyond Meat announced that it was opening a new research and development center that will work together in discovering and developing plant-based meats for everyone to enjoy. This will boost the sales of plant-based meat alternatives that are experiencing a jump in its total sales from 6% to 24% from the previous years.


Dairy Alternatives Continue to Soar in Sales Growth

While the plant-based meats are soaring high this year, the sale of plant-based diary makes up a meager portion of the pie. Data shows that only 13% of “milk” sales come from non-dairy sources. Although small, it is projected to rise in the next few years as consumers continue to look for healthier alternatives and cleaner sources. And the prospect is very much definite as companies like Campbell’s are now selling protein milk sourced from peas. There is also a growth in the sales of plant-based creamers at 131% while plant-based cheese is at 43% while the sales of cow’s milk dropped to 6% last year.

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Innova Market Insights Show 62% Increase in Plant-Based Product Claims

There is a growing interest among the consumers not only for healthier products but also those that are sourced from ethical and sustainable methods. This is the reason plant-based products and ingredients are increasing in popularity and growth. Today, there are so many companies that are dedicated to producing plant-based products to cater to this growing market niche and it will not be long until this trend takes on the mainstream competition.

Plant-Based Ingredients Are Rising in Popularity

According to the report released by Innova Market Insights, plant-based product claims have increased by 62% globally with an estimated sales forecast of $4.2 billion in the United States. Plant-based products include platforms like active botanicals, plant-proteins, non-dairy milk, seasonings, sweeteners, food coloring, and so much more.


One example that shows how popular the plant-based foods market is the non-dairy products industry. According to Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insight, the availability and promotion of plant-based alternatives to dairy products such as yogurt, ice cream, and milk have helped drive the industry. In fact, global sales of non-dairy milk are higher by 8% since last year and have earned $16.3 billion in global sales.

The Growth of Non-Dairy Milk Products

It is estimated that plant-based milk products will double its growth within the next five years. With this fact, there are many companies that are venturing into non-dairy milk products category. Successful companies that have ventured into non-dairy milk products include Spoonable. The company makes non-dairy yogurt and it saw a growth of 48% during the 2013-2017 market period.

While some non-dairy milk products are successful, some have stable yet minimal growth. For instance, a non-dairy alternative such as plant-based cheese and creams only save minimal growth of 0.5% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2017. The probable reason for yogurt having more sales is because it is touted as a healthy product. Many companies are researching sources of non-dairy milk alternatives and aside from your usual oats and almonds, plant-based milk and milk products are now made from hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, coconut, flaxseed, and hemp.

Plant-Based Product Claims Grow in Meat Category

There is a growing interest when it comes to plant-based eating and it is reflected in the development of alternatives from the meat industry. Plant-based meats used today are made from soy, grains, and vegetables. Companies like Valess and Quorn were the pioneers of the plant-based meat industry. Today, other companies have sprung up such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger that have produced plant-based meat that tastes and bleeds like real meat.

There are many reasons why people gravitate towards plant-based ingredients these days. The pull towards plant-based diets such as flexitarianism, vegetarianism, and veganism might be the most important factor that contributed to such a shift in food preferences. In fact, the same market study noted that four in ten or 40% of consumers in the United States have increased their consumption of meat and dairy alternatives since last year.

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Consumers of All Generations Are Loving Plant-Based Foods

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In a report released by survey company Datassentials, it revealed that many Americans are shifting towards plant-based foods because of the benefits to the body. In fact, most people are increasing their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables more than ever.

There are many reasons why consumers are shifting towards a new diet regimen, and the reasons vary across demographics. For instance, 44% of the Generation Z consumers change to plant-based foods as they enjoy the taste of fruits and vegetables while 21% of millennial consumers opt for plant-based products to show support to the local farmers.  It is essential to take note that while consuming plant-based products come with a lot of functional benefits, many consumers are uncertain about the role of plant-based foods. In fact, fewer can identify the attributes of the specific plant-based foods that they are consuming.

Big Companies Are Jumping on The Bandwagon

Having said this, consumers who opt for the plant-based diet usually count on seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains as part of their pantry staples. But aside from these food items, consumers also eat more fruits and vegetables.

The increasing consumption of fresh produce and plant-based products has resulted in sales growth for big companies. Around 30% of the consumers limiting their use of meat (flexitarians or pescatarians) or avoiding meat (vegan or vegetarians) have been attracted to the new plant-based meat alternatives in the market. Even big corporations have embraced this trend. Companies like Starbucks, for example, have released its line of nut milk-based beverages while TGI Fridays have stepped into the plant-based territory by using Beyond Meat’s meatless burger to create most of their plant-based dishes.

How Other Companies Can Leverage on The Trend of Plant-Based Foods

While big companies are joining the trend in releasing products made from plant-based ingredients, smaller enterprises are a bit skeptical. However, food manufacturers can leverage the trend and attract more consumers by incorporating global flavors to make their food more interesting. Using bold flavors and ethnic recipes can also attract consumers. On the other hand, avoiding alienating descriptions such as putting on the label “vegan” or “vegetarian” will also help promote the product.

In fact, 85% of consumers agree that plant-based foods are fulfilling and as delicious as animal protein-based products. But more than mimicking animal protein, consumers are also drawn to colorful produce thanks to the promotion of smoothies and fruit bowls on social media. The thing is that social media plays a critical role in promoting plant-based foods, especially among millennials.

With the increasing number of consumers opting for plant-based foods, it is no wonder why many companies are embracing this niche thus the sale is likely to increase in the years to follow. The only challenge here is to give further knowledge to consumers so that they will be encouraged to eat more plant-based foods not only for their health but also for the environment.

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Impossible Foods’ Plant Burger Not Impressing FDA So Far

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The company, Impossible Foods, has been working on a plant-based burger that is touted to taste like real beef. According to Impossible Foods Inc. founder, Patrick O. Brown, the plant burger was invented to solve one of the most significant environmental problems on the planet– the production of beef. Made from soybean root and genetically engineered yeast, this burger was created to look, feel, and taste like a real burger without having to raise and kill a cow. The magic ingredient of the plant-based beef is heme–a source of iron that gives the red color to blood. But the company discovered a plant-based heme that offers the Impossible burger its beef taste and mouthfeel.

FDA Not Impressed by Impossible Plant Burger

While the Impossible burger is the most exciting discovery for vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based dieters, the US Food and Drug Administration was hardly impressed by it. The FDA even indicated in their report that the company has not yet met the mark. The discovery of the plant-based heme and using it in food production is something that needs more research on.

But according to Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, the plant-based heme has many great potential uses. However, it is shrouded in a lot of controversies. Studies have shown that people who consume too much red meat are at risk of colon cancer. As heme makes the meat red, some researchers believe that heme may be the culprit. But with regards to plant-based heme, researchers still need further evidence to find the missing link. But Patrick Brown thinks otherwise. Reports on the possible connection of heme to cancer are rubbish, according to him.

Solution to Beef Addiction

Didn’t you know that 30% of the earth’s land is utilized in the production of beef? Cattle raising requires massive amounts of inputs like water. Brown developed the Impossible burger to tackle the environmental problems related to growing beef. Upon the introduction of the Impossible burger, investors have responded with a lot of enthusiasm. In fact, the company has raised more than $400 million. People who have invested in this product include Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla. Even big enterprises are also pitching in such as Singapore-based Temasek Holdings and Google Ventures.

Having said this, plant meat that tastes almost like real meat is one of the hottest food trends in the market today. It is not only famous among vegans and vegetarians but also flexitarians. In fact, the sales of plant-based meat are expected to grow by 17% annually according to CoBank.

Impossible Foods is Not Giving Up

While the FDA is hardly impressed by the plant burger, Impossible Foods is not giving up. In its recent attempt to satisfy the FDA, the company submitted a report that includes lab studies on rats being fed with large amounts of heme to prove that the plant-based heme is indeed safe for consumption. To date, the FDA is still currently reviewing the safety of the plant burger with heme.  But until proven otherwise, spokeswoman of Impossible Foods Inc., Rachel Conrad, noted that heme is safe to eat.

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Plants Have More Protective Properties Against Alzheimer’s Than Pills

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Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most dreaded diseases that inflict the elderly. Conventional medicines are used to slow down the progression of the disease, but they do not prevent or reduce your likelihood of stopping this condition. While there is no cure for this particular disease yet, your likelihood of developing it can be reduced.

Dr. Neal Barnard, founding president of the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), noted that while popping pills can slow down the disease, they don’t prevent the onset of its occurrence. In his book “Power Foods for The Brain,” he discusses that certain foods can help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

Eat Plants to Protect Your Brain

There are many foods that you can eat for your brain but there are only a few that provides your brain with a shield. These plants with concentrations of certain vitamins including Vitamin E and B Vitamins (B6, B12, and folic acid). These vitamins help protect the brain from cognitive impairment when ingested especially together with a plant-based diet.

While these vitamins are good for the brain, they can cause harm if taken in huge amounts. For instance, large doses of Vitamin E can increase the risk of heart disease while high amounts of folate increase the risk for cancer. The thing is, the body has evolved to procure micronutrients through the food that we eat. Consumption of high doses of vitamins is not natural for the body and can possibly cause more harm than good.

How to Get Vitamins Trough the Food You Eat

The best way to get micronutrients that are good for the brain is by eating the right kinds of food. But how do you get micronutrients from the food that you eat? It is important that you know that plants are one of the best ways to get the micronutrients that you need. For instance, you can get traces of Vitamin E from green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. You can also get Vitamin E from mangoes, sweet potatoes, and avocados. Other sources include pine nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and pistachios. Although you only get 5mg of Vitamin E from these foods, you can reduce your risk by as much as 26%.

When it comes to Vitamin B6, you can consume whole greens, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, and bananas. Folate can be sourced from leafy greens, peas, citrus fruits, and cantaloupes. Now the challenge here is Vitamin B12 as it is made by bacteria found in dirt. It is also found in meat. To compensate, you can consume a 1000mg B12 supplement daily especially if you are not a meat eater.

Many people believe that Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease, but recent studies noted that it is a vascular disease as patients who suffer from this disease have clogged up arteries in the brain, which is a tell-tale sign of a vascular disease. Having said this, what is good for the heart should also be good for the brain and consumption of more plant-based foods is definitely good not only good for the hear but also for the brain.

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Study: Consumers Favor the Term “Plant-Based” Over “Vegan”

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The vegan movement is becoming popular as more people are trying to live healthy lives. Vegan food products do not contain any animal products (or by-products). In fact, around 800 companies worldwide have made vegan products and have partnered with organizations such as Vegan Action to market vegan food products.

But while veganism is considered a solid movement, another movement is coming to the forefront – the plant-based diet. While the two terms are often interchanged with one another, the latter has a broader definition ranging from excluding animal-based product to just adding more fresh produce to your diet.

Increasing Number of People Opting for the Plant-Based Diet

In a survey conducted by HealthFocus International, about 17% of consumers in the United States consume predominantly a plant-based diet while 60% say they are cutting back on meat-based products.  And those who are cutting back on meat reveal that they don’t plan to go back to their massive meat-eating habits and would want to make this flexitarian lifestyle permanent.

According to Steven Walton, General Manager of Research at HealthFocus International, the change in consumer preference with regards to consuming more produce is prevalent through a wide variety of demographics. This means that this diet is not only popular among millennials but even the baby boomers and generation Z. Industry leaders can benefit from this information, but they might be too distracted by the many words that have sprung up such as vegetarian, flexitarian, and vegan.

Vegan vs. Plant-Based in Consumer Minds

With this confusion, many consumers prefer a singular term when describing the diet. According to a California-based food consultant, Mattson, more than 80% of people surveyed indicated that they prefer the terms “plant-based” over “vegan” when describing a diet that avoids all types of animal products.

While the term “vegan” is often used, “plant-based” is more flexible and gives consumers the impression that the food tastes better and it more likened to whole foods. Mattson president, Barb Stuckey, noted that that the term “plant-based” is more positive and does not include deprivation or allegiance to a self-defining cause such as environmentalism or animal rights, which veganism is known for. By using the term “plant-based,” any conversation about plant-based food becomes neutral and does not incite any negative reactions from other people including ethical vegans.

Why are People Opting for a Plant-Based Diet?

There are many reasons why many people shift to the plant-based diet. Based on the survey, 3 out of 4 individuals noted that they would like to consume more plant-based foods for health reasons while others opt for this diet to lose weight or contribute something to the environment.

As more consumers are more welcoming to the term “plant-based,” food manufacturers have also caught up. Companies like Good Karma Food launched its non-dairy yogurt and sales have continued to increase 50% yearly. Other companies such as Beyond Meat introduced its plant-based chicken strips and burgers that vegan consumers have embraced with much gusto. Having said this, the popularity of the “plant-based” term has resulted in a new and ever-growing niche.

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