Flexitarians Are Flexing Their Muscles Choosing Plant-Based Food & Beverage


Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are not new. The term “Vegetarian” was coined in 1847a and the term “Veganism” was coined in 1944.b Vegetarian, vegan, and raw diets once were on the fringe. Access to vegetarian and vegan food and beverage was limited and products were primarily sold at independent natural food stores. Early plant-based products were not sophisticated and lacked the taste, texture, and characteristics of their animal-based counterparts. Currently, health and wellness are priority and vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are mainstream. In the last decade, plant-based innovations have skyrocketed with a dizzying number of alt protein product launches across industries including dairy, meat, and eggs. Technology and ingredients have evolved and plant-based products now closely mimic animal-derived protein.

The latest term “Flexitarian” (a portmanteau of the words flexible and vegetarian) was coined in 1992 and began gaining popularity in 2004.c Flexitarian is the current buzzword with “climatarian” and “reducetarian” in the background. Individuals are reducing the amount of animal-based meats and incorporating more plant-based proteins into their diets. Health and wellness, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare are common drivers of flexitarians’ interest in plant-based food and beverage. However, consumers don’t want to sacrifice taste or flavor when choosing animal-free products. Regardless of individuals’ lifestyle choices, meatless products are now accessible and available at mainstream grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains with no signs of slowing down. According to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, the plant-based foods market could make up to 7.7% of the global protein market by 2030, with a value of over $162 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2020.d

Flexitarian Lifestyles On The Rise

Flexitarianism is fueling plant-based market growth and has been appearing in headlines in media outlets around the globe. The Flexitarian diet ranked No. 2 of 40 diets for Best Diets Overall, according to the U.S. News & World Best Diets 2022 report.e According to multiple research studies, the number of consumers who consider themselves flexitarians is growing.

According to the Hartman Group’sf pre-pandemic research:

  • 41% of plant-based purchasers thought of themselves as people who were limiting meat.
  • 1 in 5 described themselves as carnivores.
  • Only 12% of plant-based purchasers described themselves as vegetarians.
  • 41% of them described their eating style as “omnivore.”

Similarly, YouGov’sg research showed:

  • 69% of Americans classify their diet as “omnivore.”

According to a One Pollh survey of 2,000 Americans commissioned by Sprouts Farmers Market:

  • 47% of respondents overall describe themselves as flexitarians.
  • 43% of respondents see it as a “permanent lifestyle change.”

European consumer behavior echoes U.S. behavior. ProVeg International and Innova Market Insightsi conducted a European study of 7,578 participants in 10 countries including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the UK. The data indicated:

  • 37% of European respondents identified as vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian.
  • For flexitarians, 73% said they’re eating less meat than they were a year ago.

It is no surprise that flexitarianism is so popular. It checks all the boxes for a balanced diet. Trilogy Flavors creates flavorful plant-based products sure to satisfy consumers’ vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian lifestyles. Request samples here.

Growing Demand For Plant-Based Food & Beverage

Consumer packaged goods manufacturers, quick service restaurants, and fine dining are all innovating to keep up with consumers’ growing demand for plant-based food and beverage. There has been an abundant supply of plant-based products and consumers’ awareness continues to grow. Veganuary, which is a challenge to not eat dairy and meat for the month of January, started in the UK in 2014 and continues to gain momentum. In 2020, Veganuary launched a US campaign and partnered with brands, restaurants, and celebrities to promote the challenge. This January, 95,000 Americans took the pledge in the US, an 18% increase.j According to Datassential, 71% of U.S. adults reported trying at least one plant-based product in 2021.k Plant-based proliferation is further evidenced by International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) research. 65% of respondents said they’d tried a new plant protein over the last 12 months, with the most popular options being plant alternatives to meat (28%), new varieties of milk alternatives (24%), new varieties of other dairy alternatives like plant-derived yogurt or cheese (21%) and other new varieties of packaged foods high in plant protein (21%).l Restauranters and renowned chefs are reinventing their menus to focus on plants. Dubbed “Haute Veganism,” Wunderman Thompson cited three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City as an example, which now serves a fully plant-based menu.m

In addition to consumers’ evolving behavior, a telltale sign of the importance of plant-based products is the recent activity in alternative protein growth. Large multinational food and beverage manufacturers are developing their own plant-based products or acquiring plant-based companies across markets while start-ups and food tech companies are being backed by capital investments. According to The Good Food Institute, in 2020, the alternative protein industry raised $3.1 billion in investments.n An additional indicator is global fast-food chains that are known for their hamburgers and chicken nuggets are rolling out alt meat products as permanent menu additions. From dairy to meat, plant-based alternatives are here to stay. Let Trilogy Flavors support your new food and beverage product development with our diverse portfolio of vegan flavors designed specifically for plant-based products. Request samples here.

Sustainability Of Plant-Based Products

Originally, health and wellness were the most significant driver for the reduction of meat and the use of alt proteins. However, consumers are now concerned with climate change and the planet’s health. The University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems suggests that food accounts for 10-30% of a household’s carbon footprint.o Knowing that a food manufacturer has a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint is important to 4 in 10 consumers, according to IFIC’s research.p

“Shared Planet” is the number one trend leading the Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2022, overtaking personal health, which has been the top priority in recent years. Consumers consider plant-based alternatives to be healthier and better for the planet. The survey revealed that the top two environmental actions consumers are taking for food choices are reducing waste (43%) and eating in moderation (32%).q Comparably, Euromonitor identified “Climate Changers” as one of the research firm’s top 10 global consumer trends in 2022. The data showed that 67% of consumers tried to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions in 2021.r

Furthermore, a survey from First Insights identified consumers’ interest in sustainable products:

  • 72% of consumers said sustainability was a very or somewhat important purchase consideration.

When asked why they prefer sustainable brands:

  • 17% of consumers said to improve the environment
  • 16% said social signaling
  • 11% said to reduce carbon footprint
  • 9% said to reduce production waste
  • 8% said animal welfare

Consumers’ concerns for the environment will continue to escalate. To reduce their carbon footprint, consumers will incorporate more plant-based foods and beverages into their diet creating opportunities for new products and exciting flavors. As a member of the Plant-based Food Association, Trilogy Flavors is committed to raising the bar for sustainability. Our sustainable food practices extend from our raw materials to our manufacturing facility. To learn more about our green initiatives, contact us here.

Plant-Based Flavor Profiles

As discussed, early adopters turned to plant-based food and beverage because of health concerns, animal welfare, and environmental impact. R&D’s focus has been on overcoming the technical challenges of plant-based proteins and how closely the applications replicate the real product. Technological advances are pushing the envelope as taste and texture have been the biggest factors driving development. With the latest innovations, the Hartman Group believes consumers are now pursuing plant-based products driven by flavor, texture, and desire for variety.f Innova Market Insights cited “Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation” as its second Top Ten Trend of 2022 and states “as it’s evolved, plant-based is now no longer about mimicking meat and dairy but creating innovation in its own right.”q In addition, functionality and authenticity are additional drivers for innovation in 2022, as consumers demand freshness and flavor as well as nutrients from what they eat.

Flavor is important and a key component of all foods. However, innovation has not been in new flavor profiles for plant-based alternatives. Instead, current flavors are mirroring original flavors found in dairy and meat products. Consumers expect and gravitate to reliable, standard flavors found in animal-derived products they are familiar with. For example, dill, garlic, herbs, and onion are popular cheese flavors while pepperoni and bacon are popular meat flavors. According to IFIC, 68% of respondents say familiarity is a key driver when it comes to purchasing foods and beverages.l As plant-based technology advances, Trilogy Flavors foresees consumers’ interest in new and unique flavor profiles. We expect to see new players enter the competitive landscape with new plant-based applications and sustainable products catering to a variety of consumers. Let your alt food and beverage formulas thrive with Trilogy Flavors’ vegan line of flavors designed specifically for plant-based applications. See our complete list here or request your samples here.


a https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/evolution-vegetarianism/
b https://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/
c https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/the-flexitarian-diet
d https://www.bloomberg.com/company/press/plant-based-foods-market-to-hit-162-billion-in-next-decade-projects-bloomberg-intelligence/
e https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/flexitarian-diet
f https://www.hartman-group.com/newsletters/367376129/scrutiny-of-plant-based-ingredients-and-labeling-an-ongoing-consumer-priority
g https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/vy4b1z4v2q/econToplines.pdf
h https://plantbasednews.org/culture/ethics/over-half-young-americans-flexitarians/
i https://plantbasednews.org/lifestyle/food/europeans-eating-less-meat-research/
j https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/veganuarys-popularity-in-the-us-spikes-with-200-brands-95000-american-participants/
k https://www.adweek.com/commerce/as-71-of-americans-dabble-in-plant-based-2022-will-be-a-high-stakes-brand-battleground/
l https://foodinsight.org/plant-and-animal-protein-consumer-survey/
m https://www.wundermanthompson.com/insight/the-future-100-2022
n https://gfi.org/blog/2020-state-of-the-industry-highlights/
o https://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet
p https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/IFIC-2021-Food-and-Health-Survey.May-2021-1.pdf
q https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/innova-market-insights-top-ten-trends-for-2022-health-of-the-planet-overtakes-personal-health-priorities.html
r https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220117005007/en/Euromonitor-Reveals-the-Top-10-Global-Consumer-Trends-In-2022
s https://www.supermarketperimeter.com/articles/7652-consumer-interest-in-sustainability-higher-than-retailers-believe

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