Rise in 'meat reducers' shaping future of plant-based proteins

New Field Agent report sheds some light on today's plant-based market and the evolving profile of the typical plant-based protein shopper

The future of plant-based proteins lies not in their heritage as part of vegetarian diets, but in a large emerging market of so-called “meat reducers,” according to a new report from Field Agent. 

The study of 1,000 Canadians found that packaged plant-based proteins currently account for just 9% of the plant-based products replacing meat, which Field Agent says is an indication of room for category growth. The study found that there are four times as many “meat reducers” (people who still eat meat, but are cutting back and trying to incorporate more plant-based proteins into their diets) as there are people currently living a vegetarian lifestyle. 

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of meat reducers say they are reducing consumption for health reasons, while 39% say their decision is motivated by compassion for animals and sustainability, and 38% say their decision is motivated by the rising cost of meat.

The rise of “meat reducers” is a relatively new phenomenon, with 63% indicating that they have been pursuing their diet for either less than one year (29%) or between one and two years (34%). Field Agent says that their relative newness to this eating approach means that they need brands to educate them on the benefits of plant-based products and how to prepare them. 

Beef (88%), processed meats (84%) and pork (74%) are the most common types of meat being scaled back by meat reducers. 

Beyond Meat is the most popular packaged plant-based meat alternative, followed by Yves Veggie Cuisine and Amy’s. The study calls Beyond Meat a “gateway protein,” exceeding category perceptions for its taste, ease-of-use, quality and convenience. 

Asked what retailers and/or brands could do to get them to try more plant-based products, consumers indicated that coupons would be the most helpful, just ahead of in-store product demos and slightly ahead of flyer promotions, in-store displays and recipes and usage ideas.

Buyers of packaged plant-based protein products identified Walmart as their “go-to” retailer for these products, just ahead of the Superstore banner and Sobeys/Safeway/IGA/Thrifty.  

The foodservice industry also plays a key role in driving customer trial, with 65% of people who had tried the Beyond Meat product at A&W indicating that it was their first time trying a plant-based burger in the past two years.