In recent years, the demand for plant-based foods has been constantly increasing, so many companies are expanding their portfolio to include such products. All over the world, many start-ups have been founded entering this segment with great hopes for spectacular growth.
The truth is that reality is not so bright. There is enormous competition, combined with a low diversity of brands. Many products of plant origin are highly processed and are in no way associated with natural origin and health. Consumers have doubts about low nutritional value, especially low protein content. In many cases, the taste and mouthfeel of the products do not meet market expectations.
Today, we can already see that the market for plant products is maturing. In many categories, especially the simplest types of vegetable spreads, products very similar to one another it is supersaturated. Establishing a position in the “veggie” market requires a well-thought-out strategy and a product that stands out from the market and offers many benefits to the consumer. The “vegetable” label itself – far too little to be successful.
In the past, all you had to do was bring one product to the stores to start selling. Vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, eco-conscious consumers, cholesterol-conscious consumers, people wanting to diversify their diets, and people with different motives for using plant products – all were seen as a homogeneous group of consumers with the same message – simple information about its origin.
Studies on consumer motivation show that only accurate market segmentation and a differentiated marketing message will succeed. According to Mintel, there are some basic customer groups that are permanently and systematically interested in buying plant products. Mintel describes their different motivations and describes the benefits and advantages that are best suited for these groups. Any innovation should be the result of a thorough analysis of the motivation of these groups
Groups which for health reasons reduce the consumption of animal proteins in favour of plant-based foods will be open to meat substitutes with a favourable nutritional profile. Older consumers “want to eat less meat”, and younger consumers “want to eat more plants”. The marketing message should focus on communicating low cholesterol, high protein, and fibre. Environmental and ethical issues will not play a major role in this group.
Another group “environmentally conscious” sees a link between reducing meat consumption – especially red meat – and the environmental benefits. These are usually consumers of the younger generation. They do not pay much attention to nutritional values and are open to highly processed, convenience foods with excellent taste.
The most obvious group are consumers who eat vegetarian or vegan foods. They are ethically inclined, pay attention to less processed foods and are usually reluctant to respond to attempts to imitate meat. In the West, it is usually younger consumer groups, globally in regions where meat avoidance is religiously motivated. Consumers in this group are looking for healthy plant proteins and are searching for the widest possible range of products of plant origin.
A group which, for health reasons, adds plant products to a non-meat-free diet. These consumers must be ensured that they receive healthy, nutritious, and fibre-rich food. They are looking for less processed products with a clean label, but not necessarily free of animal proteins. This is a group which is much more likely to use meat and plant products than purely plant products.
Another group that can be defined as “diversity seekers” will be happy to use different formats and protein sources. They do not try to reduce their meat consumption, but they become curious about vegetable products, also those that imitate meat. For this group, taste and an engaging, attractive format are the most important. Environmental, ethical or health issues do not play a major role.
When designing plant-based foods, we need to consider market segmentation and consumer motivation from the outset. As Mintel points out, the market saturated with plant products is forcing producers to pay attention to consumers and their unique needs.