Food Matter’s Live Trends Panel: Plant-based Products in 2023
19th January 2023
Written by HRS Communications
Food Matter’s Live is a platform to inspire a better future for food through a variety of deliverables such as podcasts, articles and trends panels. The trends panels are designed to expand the attendees’ knowledge of current nutritional insights and are delivered by experts in the field. Freya, one of HRS’ students, attended the trends panel titled, “Plant-based products in 2023” in November 2022. The panelists for the session were Tom Rees (Industry Manager), Mate Kun (Co-founder of The Growth Kitchen) and Joanne Lunn (part of the Ethics and Partnerships). Freya has summarized her takeaways from the session below.
Shifting attitudes towards the plant-based diet:
With a focus on plant derived food rather than animal products, the plant-based diet offers a variety of benefits to the consumer and the planet. The plant-based sector has grown exponentially over the past few years, but what has kickstarted this change in attitude? Panelist Tom Rees suggested the number one reason seemed to be for health; as more and more evidence surfaces that a diet full of legumes, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables is beneficial, consumers seem to be taking note and making healthier choices. However, Tom also suggested sustainability and animal welfare play a large role in individuals’ primary reason for following a plant-based diet. It was noted that the younger generation especially seems to be considering the impact of their food choices.
Rather than people converting solely to a plant-based diet, many people are taking a flexitarian approach, with their goal being to decrease their meat consumption.
A hybrid approach to products:
Due to the steady increase in the purchase of plant-based foods, companies have responded by increasing the number of plant-based products available to consumers. The panel discussed that due to many people just wanting to reduce their meat consumption rather than completely cut it out, companies are focusing on a hybrid approach. A hybrid approach looks like replacing portions of meat in products with plant-based alternatives, for instance, instead of using exclusively beef for a curry, there would be added chickpeas to substitute some of the beef.
In addition, more plant-based restaurants and cafés are opening up however, during the masterclass, Mate Kun discussed that there isn’t a strong enough target audience for many of these businesses to be successful yet. One idea discussed was for restaurants and cafés to take a more flexitarian approach to their menus that are mostly plant-based, by including some meat or fish which could potentially lead to higher success rates.
The skepticism surrounding processed plant-based products:
Currently, the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact on numerous factors in people’s lives including food prices; this suggests that many people may now opt for the cheapest product available. Unfortunately, the majority of plant-based foods and the hybrid products discussed earlier come at a higher price point than animal products. Therefore, consumers need strong motivation and resources to choose the pricier plant-based option rather than the cheaper animal-based product.
Due to people’s main motivation for choosing plant-based products being health, there is some skepticism from consumers surrounding highly processed plant-based foods, for example, meat substitutes. Therefore, companies are looking into more whole foods, and nutrient-dense products to respond to this demand, for example, bean burgers. This can only be a good thing as it will increase choice in the market for those concerned about their health and the consequences of eating more processed plant-based alternatives.
Looking ahead into 2023:
Due to numerous brands moving into the plant-based market, companies need to focus on differentiating themselves from their competitors and creating a unique selling point. However, instead of creating new foods within the plant-based sector, due to the already saturated market, the panel suggested that brands are likely to be focusing on improving and refining existing products such as plant-based chicken to improve taste and health benefits.
Overall, this panel discussion was an interesting and exciting session and gave a good insight into plant-based products and trends.