New behavioral research by consumer insights platform Veylinx reveals what the future holds for plant-based meats and other alternative proteins. The comprehensive study shows that opportunities abound for innovative brands to drive plant-based revenue growth. While only 5% of study participants identify as vegan or vegetarian, a vast majority (77%) said they could be convinced to buy meat alternatives more frequently. Greater concern for animals or the environment won't be the biggest drivers of change. When it comes to purchasing alternative proteins more often, improved taste would convince 35% and a lower price would persuade 28%.
Veylinx, which uses behavioral research to measure consumer purchasing habits, tested seven proteins (meat, plant-based with meatlike properties, conventional plant-based, cultivated meat/fish, mycoprotein, microalgae, and insect) across different categories like burgers, bacon, jerky, lasagna, and more. It also measured demand for brands like Amy's, Beyond Meat, and Sweet Earth to determine what consumers value most and what impacts their willingness to pay.
As expected, meat-based proteins drive the most purchase interest, but alternatives trail closely, with consumers expressing varied preferences for substitutes across categories. Cultivated (i.e., lab-grown) meat is the preferred alternative for burgers, jerky, nuggets, and filet mignon; plant-based with meatlike properties drives the greatest demand for bacon and lasagna, and microalgae is favored for sushi. While insect protein ranks last for both sushi and jerky, it garners purchase interest from 29% of consumers. Shoppers are also willing to pay extra for plant-based lasagna and plant-based bacon—even more than for beef lasagna and pork bacon.
"While we may be approaching a saturation point for products like burger patties and hot dogs—making it difficult to win shelf space and market share—our research shows there are still plenty of categories like seafood, jerky, and ready-to-eat meals where consumers are seeking more varied plant-based options," said Anouar El Haji, CEO of Veylinx. "Brands can succeed in these categories by launching products that are delicious and priced competitively, even if they don't duplicate the taste and texture of meat. We also found that consumers are willing to buy unfamiliar protein innovations like mycoprotein, microalgae, and even edible insects—especially when they are incorporated into packaged foods like frozen lasagna and jerky."
What's in a name?
The study also examined naming conventions in the hot dog category to uncover whether labeling affects purchase interest. It found that calling a hot dog "Meatless" instead of "Vegan" boosts demand by 16%. "Meatless" drives the greatest demand, followed by "Veggie," "Plant-based," "Animal-free," and finally "Vegan."
Are burger patties overdone?
Specific brands of plant-based burgers were also tested to reveal which ones generate the most demand. Plant-based proteins with meatlike properties—a protein innovation engineered to resemble meat as closely as possible—did well in other parts of the study, ranking as the top alternative for lasagna and bacon. But when it comes to branded burger patties, Amy's Organic California Veggie Burgers performed the best, followed by offerings from Sweet Earth, Boca, Beyond Meat, and MorningStar Farms.
Personal benefits rule, but negative messaging resonates
The study found that consumers tend to buy alternative proteins for personal benefits—notably, because they are "Healthier than meat" (42%) and because they "Prefer the taste" (35%). Less than 30% of participants list "Animal welfare" and "Better for the environment'' as purchase reasons. When it comes to changing their habits and buying alternative proteins more often, 23% say that nothing could convince them to purchase meat alternatives more frequently. Gen Z consumers express more willingness to change their diets, with 87% stating that they could be persuaded to buy more meatless products.
Veylinx also tested the effect of animal welfare, environmental, and health warnings on meat demand. When consumers are presented with statements highlighting the negative effects of meat consumption, demand falls. Animal welfare messaging reduces purchase interest by 7%, while environmental messaging shrinks it by 6%. While consumers may choose meatless alternatives for health reasons, warnings about the negative health effects of meat consumption only drop purchase interest by 2%.
Younger consumers favor government policies to shift habits
Overall, 37% of participants say they would support an extra 10% meat tax to reduce consumption and 51% say the government should subsidize meat alternatives. Gen Z shows much greater interest in these policies, with 62% supporting a meat tax and 71% advocating subsidies to reduce prices and stimulate innovation.
To download more detailed results from the Alternative Proteins study or for more information about Veylinx, visit info.veylinx.com/alt-proteins-research.
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