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Price the ‘biggest hurdle’ in plant-based category: Study

Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food and Analytics Lab found only a small number of Canadians think meat and dairy alternatives are affordable
plant-based meat

Canadians are still craving alternatives to meat and dairy, but price remains a sticking point for consumers when it comes to purchasing plant-based foods. 

A cross-national survey from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food and Analytics Lab of 5,507 respondents found that only 22.3% deem plant-based alternatives affordable. 

Over the last 12 months, 34% said they had consumed a plant-based meat alternative. Thirty-one per cent had consumed a plant-based meat alternative at least one a week, while 19.8% said “a few times a month.”

READ: How loyalty programs can deliver the savings shoppers want

The results were slightly different for dairy alternatives. A total of 42.2% of Canadians have consumed a plant-based dairy product in the last 12 months, with more than half (50.4%) doing so at least once a week. 

Just under half (49%) are able to find plant-based products in retail stores when they want to purchase them. 

Of those surveyed, 49.2% of respondents prefer animal proteins. While 28.1% chose both animal and plant-based, 12.3% chose plant-based proteins as their preference. 

When it comes to the motivation behind eating plant-based foods, the majority of Canadians (30.7%) do so for the perceived health benefits.

The personal taste difference was selected by 12.6%, followed by environmental benefits at 12.1%. A total of 8.9% of respondents chose a plant-based product for animal welfare concerns. 

As for taste, 33.8% of respondents consider plant-based products to taste good. Meanwhile, 39.8% believe plant-based alternatives offer high nutritional value.

READ: Consumers buying less fresh meat, looking to produce and dairy for alternatives

“Our data suggests the plant-based market is real in Canada, numbers are much higher than expected,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in a statement. “The market and plant-based products clearly remain a work in progress, but price is unsurprisingly the biggest hurdle for the category.”

Still, despite the affordability of plant-based foods, 39.4% of Canadians say they’re likely or very likely to buy a meat or dairy alternative in the next six months. 

While a total of 47.7% see the price as a factor in their purchase, 44.9% see taste as a factor and 31.5% consider nutritional value as important. Both availability and brand are much less important factors for respondents, the lab said. 

Only 29% of respondents would buy plant-based alternatives if they knew they were made more sustainably, and 48.2% believe the quality of plant-based alternatives in general is improving.

A total of 33.5% of respondents believe they are more knowledgeable about proteins compared to 12 months ago.

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