Mintel: Is Plant-Based losing Credibility?

2 Sep 2021

The term “plant-based” has proliferated into a range of categories resulting in an oversaturated use of the phrase, which the market research firm Mintel asserts positions the term to be at risk of losing some of its better-for-you significance with consumers.

In Mintel’s report on the subject, plant-based claims were said to have an “ambiguous nature” that has the ability to shift associations with the terma and lead down a similar path taken by the claim “all-natural.” Brands shifted away from using the phrase “all-natural” in recent years due to a combination of ambiguity, oversaturation and lawsuits associated with the use of these words.

Mintel: Is Plant-Based losing Credibility?
Image via Hayley Maxwell on Unsplash

Already, some evidence of this shift can be seen in media reports questioning the health of plant-based alternatives such as the Impossible Burger. The plant-based burger has similar levels of saturated fat but more sodium and less protein than an animal-derived beef burger.

Nevertheless, this analysis pointed out that the wider market has not yet widely discredited plant-based claims. U.S. respondents perceived food and drink products with plant-based claims as healthy and natural, compared to a benchmark of all food and drink products, according to the research done by Mintel Purchase Intelligence.

Still, the health halo surrounding plant-based products does have room to expand. Per Mintel's findings, one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by making nutrition a priority in product formulations. By creating formulations focusing on specific attributes consumers seek when choosing healthy foods, such as low in fat, salt and sugar, plant-based products have an opportunity to remain relevant to the market in the long term.

Mintel arrived at this conclusion based on the findings from several of its recent reports. In its 2020 Better-for-You Eating Trends Market Report, the firm found, only one in five US consumers who consider themselves to eat healthy agree plant-based is a priority for them when shopping. Nutrition, it seems, is a priority. Another study from Mintel found a quarter of U.S. consumers who eat plant-based protein do not consider processed meat alternatives to be healthier than real meat; however, more than half would eat more meat alternatives if they had the same nutritional profile as meat.

Without integrating more tangible benefits into product profiles and better-for-you packaging claims, plant-based in the U.S. may face a similar fate to "natural" products, slowly falling out of favor for the next mega-trend. However, by using concrete terms and ingredients to orient plant-derived products toward the health and wellness demands of consumers, Mintel anticipates that companies will find a “robust opportunity” to appeal to shoppers. This recommendation is particularly pertinent with protein. Protein is a key opportunity as nearly three in five plant-based consumers would like to see more high-protein plant-based dairy alternatives, the research firm said.

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