Nielsen advises on success with meat alternatives

13 Aug 2019

In a Nielsen article entitled “Meet the new ‘meat’ eater”, the company notes that meat alternatives have made a big splash in consumer packaged goods (CPG), and sales are on the rise.

The company asks whether manufacturers and retailers are doing enough to educate consumers in this space? Getting consumers to try trendy plant-based foods is one thing, but encouraging long-term adoption and lifestyle change is another.

Nielsen advises on success with meat alternatives

Today’s shoppers are, in many cases, omnivores, Nielsen says, but they’re playing the field when it comes to exploring meat alternatives in their search for dietary protein. In fact, protein-seeking consumers are more likely than ever to consider all the options available to them.

Nielsen Homescan consumer purchase metrics indicate that 98% of meat alternative buyers in America also purchase meat products. Conversely, 21% of U.S. meat buyers, also purchase meat alternatives. The implications of this tie back to trusting your choices.

Consumers will choose what they trust and believe in, Nielsen believes. When it comes to protein options today, product availability and access aren’t the issue. In the U.S., 15% of all food and beverage sales come from products that support plant-based diets. Additionally, products that contain a protein base of spelt, seitan or lentils have generated more than $620 million. With such mainstream accessibility to alternative proteins, consumers won’t just need awareness, they need to be convinced to continue to buy. Brands need to clearly and consistently demonstrate why their product best fits the lifestyle and health aspirations of the end user.

How can you do this, Nielsen asks? You can start with transparency and education. It sounds simple, yet 39% of products that meet a plant-based diet do not specify being clean, simple, sustainable or free from artificial ingredients on product labels, the company points out. Meat alternatives are inherently processed. Brands need to therefore reassure consumers of the good that’s gone into their products in order to maintain trust and drive repeat purchasing.

Alignment with social and environmental action can also ensure continued growth of meat alternative sales, according to the company. One area to explore is the impact of livestock on climate change. Among Americans interested in the impact of livestock on climate change, 61% of those surveyed say they would reduce their meat consumption, 43% would replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein alternatives and 22% would become vegetarian or vegan in order to effect positive change. When appropriately positioned, consumers will drive major personal change to contribute to meaningful social impact.

It’s also important to remember, Nielsen says, that as the allure of newness and trendiness fades, consumer perceptions about how the product pays back the planet and those who live on it will remain. The consumer will want to be able to define what’s in that meat alternative burger, or understand exactly what makes it a healthier or better choice. In the same way margarine (down -22.5% in annual sales), sucralose (-2.6%) and soy milk (-11.4%) have had to fight for their keep as “alternatives,” the space for meat substitutes is ripe with opportunity but poised for scrutiny, the company concludes.

Beef patty producer Marfrig Global Foods has signed an agreement with ADM on the production and sale of vegetable protein-based products in Brazil.

Under the deal, the companies will work together to develop plant-based products, with ADM responsible for supplying the primary raw material used in the process, while Marfrig will produce, distribute and sell the products in the food service and retail channels.

“Together, Marfrig and ADM will produce 100% vegetable protein-based burgers with the same taste and texture of beef. We want to give consumers the power of choice. They are the ones who decide,” said Eduardo Miron, CEO of Marfrig Global Foods. “The plant-based burgers will complement Marfrig’s product portfolio and be distributed through all our market channels.”

“We offer an advanced R&D structure, natural ingredients and technological solutions, including the advantage of local manufacturing, to anticipate industry trends and meet our clients’ needs with customized service. We are the ideal partner to support and foster the sustainable development of the food, specialties and healthy nutrition industry,” said Roberto Ciciliano, CEO of ADM Nutrition in Latin America. “And our agreement with Marfrig further strengthens that proposition.”

The production of plant-based burgers in Brazil will be launched at Marfrig’s unit in Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso. Part of the plant-based raw materials will be shipped directly from ADM’s plant in Campo Grande to Marfrig’s plant.

The first plant-based burgers to be produced under the partnership between Marfrig and ADM will reach the Brazilian market by the end of this year, with exports following later. In this first phase of the launch, the products will be supplied to food service clients. Later, the plant-based burgers will be sold in retail channels. Marfrig will launch a specific brand for its plant-based products.

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