The plant-based protein industry is booming, as companies worldwide rush to develop better meat alternatives for plant-based or plant-curious consumers. Now, a new survey from nutrition company Kerry reveals that 61 percent of consumers consider plants to be a preferred protein source, over animal-based proteins. The nutrition organization found that the majority of consumers associate protein with health, and as the benefits of plant-based foods become more well known, consumers are leaning into choosing vegan protein sources.

The report revealed that only half of all consumers think animal protein is a preferred source of dietary protein. The report highlighted that globally, more products are getting traction in new market categories such as milk alternatives, chicken, as well as meat substitutes. As new plant protein options continue to become more accessible and appealing to consumers, the rise in growth and demand is expected to continue.

The survey shows that most consumers understand that plant-based protein is the healthier option, indicated by the 11 percent margin between plant-based and its less marked animal-based protein. The report emphasizes the importance of new innovations in plant-based protein products, from snacks to meat substitutes, dairy alternatives and protein powders, which will further make it accessible to more consumers.

“As plant proteins have been gaining traction and consumer acceptance, they have become a key innovation strategy in the protein-fortification space,” the report reads. “For instance, global product launches of snacks containing plant proteins grew by 49 percent between 2018 and 2020.”

Plant-based proteins are growing fastest in Europe and Asia

The report also found that European and Asia-Pacific markets recorded higher levels of plant-based protein popularity. The European market preferred plant-based to animal-based proteins by 16 percent, while the Asia-Pacific markets showed a 21 percent preference comparison.

Consumers continue to shift toward plant-based food sources as vegan food companies expand globally and production facilities open worldwide to bring down costs across all food categories.

“With an increased global focus on reaching net-zero emissions, the shift to climate-friendly, sustainable protein production presents significant sales and investment opportunities,” the Good Food Institute report reads. “Companies and investors interested in plant-based innovation recognize its transformative potential to achieve a carbon-neutral food system, and they are positioning themselves to lead this transition.”

The rise of the flexitarian

Another industry report earlier this year found that consumers were making a shift toward plant-based products. The Good Food Institutes’s 2020 State of the Industry Report found that nearly 32 percent of people worldwide identify as “mostly vegetarian.” The study – conducted by Mattson – highlighted the significant change in consumer behavior as environmental and nutritional motivators inspire people to adopt plant-based eating.

The rise in the flexitarian diet is fueled by the innovative stride from plant-based companies everywhere. The report goes on to note that 80 percent of US consumers believe that the recent shift is a long-lasting change that will continue influencing the market. Alongside the consumer motivators, the plant-based sector is becoming increasingly accessible with a wider selection of vegan alternatives.

Plant-based proteins are better for human health and the planet

Protein is consistent a top concern for consumers, especially when discussing health benefits. Many people feel intimidated by a plant-based diet and fear that by switching, they will sacrifice a significant source of protein. Alongside raw plant protein sources, vegan companies worldwide have started developing vegan protein alternatives that will minimize this struggle. By 2027, the plant-based protein market is expected to reach $21 billion, according to Meticulous Research.

Vegan protein sources have become available worldwide in retail and foodservice sectors, making it easier than ever for consumers to purchase alternatives to their favorite animal-based foods. Companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have paved the way for plant-based meat alternatives, providing people with an alternative that feels, tastes, and looks like its animal-based counterparts. Alongside these companies, research shows that rising ingredients including lupin beans and sorghum provide consumers with tons of protein. Globally, consumers have started to lean into plant-based protein sources as the world moves away from unhealthy and unsustainable animal-based products.

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