Consumers Looking for More Plant-Based Proteins

Where do you get your protein? The usual answer would be from meat and other animal products. Proteins are also found in plant sources, and they are gaining a lot of traction. In fact, 63% of Americans want to eat healthy by better understanding the ingredients found in their food. The preference of most consumers for natural and simple foods has led them to explore other food alternatives such as plant-based proteins.

Plant-Based Protein Beast Burger Beyond Meat NutriFusionPlant-Based Pulses: The New Meat

Although the sales of lean proteins in the United States have increased by 4.8% or $19.6 billion, many consumers are also buying pulses or grain legumes. Pulses are edible seeds made up of aggregates of peas, lentils, chickpeas, and other dried beans.

In a survey conducted by Nielsen, about 61% of the respondents opted for foods that have both high protein and fiber content where pulses are clearly spot on. And with the many health benefits attributed to eating pulses, it is no wonder why the United Nations declared this year (2016) as the International Year of Pulses.

Pulses are not only perfect for vegans and vegetarians. In fact, even carnivores can also take advantage of the many health benefits of pulses. But aside from nutritional and health benefits, people are now shifting to pulses because of its taste and eating convenience.

Why Are People Eating Pulses?

Health is becoming a priority for many American consumers these days. One of the most popular superfoods for health-conscious individuals is pulses.

There are different categories of consumers that consume pulses, and they vary in their income levels, dietary preferences, and life stages. However, the recent study conducted by Nielsen Homescan Consumer Moments indicated that most people who consume lentils are women who make up 70% of the respondents.

It is also important to take note that the manner of consumption of pulses indicated that consumers eat them at home.  In the study, 86% of the respondents consume legumes at home, and more are preparing them not as side dishes but as the main entrée. This means that many consumers today are taking control of their personal health by making time to cook their meals.


The Future of Pulses

Although there has been a rapid increase in popularity, the overall sales of some legumes have dropped significantly this year. For instance, while lentils and chickpeas are still dominating the sales chart with 11.1% and 64% growth respectively, other lentils like red, black, and white beans are on a steady decline.

The market for pulses in the United States is still very young. While the market is still experiencing slow growth for some of the seeds, well-known seeds like lentils and chickpeas are dominating the market. As more and more people appreciate the benefits of eating lentils, this food trend will continue to persist for years to come. It’s up to manufacturers to develop new plant-based alternatives that are tasty and excite consumers.

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Flexitarians: A Food Manufacturer’s New Best Friend

American consumers are now opting to eat less meat in favor for plant-based protein sources like nuts, beans, and jackfruit.  Dubbed as “flexitarians” or the flexitarian diet, this has sparked a new trend in the market for products that feature meaty texture and flavors minus the meat. Around 38% of Americans claim that they have at least one meatless day in a week. So why are they gaining traction? While vegans and vegetarians are becoming increasingly popular, there are more flexitarians and they have a high demand for plant-based protein snacks and meals.

The Rise of the Flexitarians                                                       

There is an increasing number of people whose diets lean towards plant-based foods. In the United States alone, more than 120 million people claim that they follow the flexitarian diet.  This is a tremendous market opportunity that is twice as large as the domestic vegan and vegetarian markets. Also called as part-time vegetarians, flexitarians have influenced many food manufacturing companies to develop new products that will appeal not only for the flexitarians but also to vegetarians and vegans.

The Effect of the Flexitarian Diet

The rise of consumers who follow the flexitarian diet has also increased the demand for food manufacturers to create alternative plant-based proteins. According to Lu Ann Williams from Innova, these alternative products are becoming more sophisticated over time. Gone are the days when people can only opt for soy and tofu as alternative protein sources. NutriFusion in particularl offers a variety of plant-based protein options for food manufacturers including potato, pea, cranberry, and hemp.

made good products grandfusion vegetables vitaminsAside from creating alternative protein sources, many food manufacturers are also joining the bandwagon of free-from foods. Free-from foods are those that do not contain a particular detrimental ingredient. These include gluten-free, dairy-free and allergen-free foods. Many food manufacturers produce these specialty food products for flexitarian consumers who suffer from certain conditions that can be triggered by the presence of “detrimental” foods.

The rise of the flexitarian diet has led many food manufacturing companies to launch new products. The number of launches that feature vegetarian claims has increased by more than 60% from 2011 to 2015. Products with vegan claims also rose to 4.3% from 2.8% from 2012 to 2014.

Consumer Food Market Trends Colliding 

beyond meat nutrifusion natural vitamins fruit vegetablesIt seems the rise of the flexitarian is due to the collision of the health, nutrition, and wellness trends in the market. The “clean label” and “simple ingredients” trends fall in line with the demand from flexitarians. Many flexitarian consumers are now opting for products that are made from natural ingredients using natural processing methods.

For instance, the use of natural processing methods such as the cold-pressing of juices has also increased by 64% between 2011 and 2015. The same growth has been observed in products like chilled soups. Using natural processing methods has led many food companies to invest in new machinery and equipment to meet the demands of the consumers.

Plant-based protein and ingredients are booming, and it doesn’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon. Food companies should launch more new products that appeal to this 120 million consumer market over the next five years.

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