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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Roye

Plant-Based Foods: Changing Consumer Preferences in North America

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

There has been a growing demand for plant-based proteins in North America. This has led to a wider availability and greater variety of plant-based protein products. According to the Good Food Institute (2020) “Food manufacturers... are innovating rapidly in this category. These next-generation plant-based meat, egg, and dairy products are increasingly competitive with animal products on the key drivers of consumer choice: taste, price, and accessibility. [Plant-based foods have outpaced] overall food growth by more than five times.”


North America had the largest share of the global plant-based market in 2020 and is expected to record a CAGR of 6.9% by 2025 (Markets and Markets, 2020). Growth in the plant-based food category is driven by the growing trend of veganism and flexitarianism; use of pea protein; innovation in extraction technologies; and strong retail sales. “SPINS retail sales data shows that grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products have grown 29% in the past two years to $5 billion” (The Good Food Institute, 2020).


Among vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and flexitarians, data shows that flexitarians are the largest market for plant-based proteins. It is estimated that 90% of users in the plant-based food category are flexitarians (Starostinetskaya, 2019). Flexitarians include people who eat red meat, poultry and seafood but are trying to limit their consumption. Consumers are increasingly opting for meatless versions of traditional cuisines.


“The changing consumer preferences have showcased a growing consumer shift toward adapting to a more nutritional diet centered towards a more sustainable lifestyle... [Millennials in particular have moved] from conventional animal-based products to organic and plant-based food products as an ideal food solution” (Markets and Markets, 2020).

There is also a global movement called “Meatless Monday” which was launched in 2003. The movement encourages consumers to eat less meat for better health and the welfare of the planet.


According to Markets and Markets (2020) “expansions and new product launches would offer lucrative opportunities for market players in the next five years” and there are several North American plant-based protein brands providing meat-less options for consumers including Beyond Meat, Gardein, Sol Cuisine, Lightlife, and Field Roast.


Beyond Meat


Beyond Meat is a “Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown” (Beyond Meat - Wikipedia, 2021). The company aims to provide plant-based protein products with the taste and texture of meat, including burgers, sausages, and beef. Beyond Meat has no GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, or soy in its products. (www.beyondmeat.com/about/our-ingredients). Some collaborations include Pizza Hut X Beyond Meat for the Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and the Beyond Fiery Famous Star burger at Carl’s Jr. The Beyond Meat website provides information about the products available to consumers at each retail location, including Food Basics, No Frills, Metro, and Whole Foods.


Gardein

Gardein provides a variety of meatless meats such as chick’n, turk’y, jerky, beefless, porkless, fishless, soups, and easy-to-prepare meals for vegans, vegetarians, and consumers dabbling in plant-based foods. Gardein is manufactured in British Columbia, Canada and in Maryland, United States by Conagra Brands. The Gardein brand was developed by a Canadian culinary expert about 25 years ago (https://gardein.ca/about). The products can be found in stores such as Walmart and Target and on menus in restaurants including Veggie Grill and Johnny Rockets (Gardein - Wikipedia, 2021). The Gardein line of products are “made from [non-GMO] soy, wheat and pea proteins, vegetables and ancient grains” (https://gardein.ca/faq).


Sol Cuisine


Sol Cuisine manufactures plant-based protein solutions. The company was established in 1980, as a manufacturer of high-quality tofu. It now produces a wide range of gourmet Non-GMO, Wheat and Gluten-Free, Kosher, Halal and Organic vegan products to retail and restaurant consumers in North America (https://solcuisine.com/about/). The brand’s line of products include appetizers, burgers, entrées, and tofu. Sol Cuisine's Crispy Chik'n Bites Won in the Plant-Based Chicken Nugget Category in Veg News "100 Best Vegan Products of All Time” (Newswire, 2020). Sol Cuisine’s products can be found at major retailers such as Sobeys, Metro, No Frills and Longo’s in Canada, and at stores like Whole Foods Market and Target in the United States.


Lightlife and Field Roast Grain Meat Co.


Another company in the plant-based foods product market is Greenleaf Foods, a subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods. Greanleaf Foods’ portfolio consists of the Lightlife and Field Roast Grain Meat Co. brands. Field Roast was founded in 1997 and its range of products includes “sausages, roasts, loaves, deli slices, a burger, and plant-based cheese slices” (www.greenleaffoods.com). Pizza Nova has added Field Roast’s plant-based pepperoni to all its locations across Canada (Business Wire, 2021).

Lightlife was established in 1979. Its products include “burgers, sausages, breakfast links and patties, and tempeh” (lightlife.com/our-story). Lightlife’s value proposition is to provide products with ingredients that are simple, clean, and recognizable. “We process our food only to bring out each ingredient’s natural flavor and full nutritional potential. Because less process is best” (lightlife.com/our-story). KFC Canada currently has plant-based sandwiches by Lightlife on its menu after a successful test run last year (Adam Campbell-Schmitt August 19 & Campbell-Schmitt, 2020). The Lightlife burger is also on the menus of Harvey's and Kelseys Original Roadhouse restaurant. Field Roast and Lightlife products are found in retailers across North America, such as Walmart, Foodland, Publix, and Target.



Source: KFC Canada website.


North Americans have become more health-conscious and “today's younger consumers are the most willing to take initiative on behalf of their well-being, and they are prepared to pay premium prices if necessary, to achieve their goals, [states] a report on global health and wellness by Nielsen” (Gustafson & R.d., 2017). While most people adopt a flexitarian diet, with a continued shift towards plant-based proteins, we are closer to addressing health and sustainability concerns.


This article was written on February 5, 2021.


References:


About us. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://gardein.ca/about


Adam Campbell-Schmitt August 19, & Campbell-Schmitt, A. (2020, August 19). KFC Canada has a plant-based chicken sandwich - will the U.S. ever see it? Retrieved from https://www.foodandwine.com/news/kfc-canada-plant-based-chicken-sandwich-lightlife#:~:text=Starting%20August%2010,%20the%20Plant-Based%20KFC%20sandwich%20hit,served%20with%20or%20without%20a%20spicy%20mayo%20upgrade.


Beyond meat. (2021, January 29). Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_Meat


Business Wire (2021, January 08). Pizza Nova to be first to Launch Field Roast's plant-based pepperoni. Retrieved from https://fieldroast.com/press-release/pizza-nova-to-be-first-to-launch-field-roasts-plant-based-pepperoni/


FAQ: GARDEIN™: Delicious Meatless food & recipes. (n.d.). Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://gardein.ca/faq/


Gardein. (2021, January 17). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardein


Greenleaf Foods. Retrieved from www.greenleaffoods.com


Gustafson, T., & R.d. (2017, January 23). Younger Consumers Are More Health Conscious Than Previous Generations. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/timi-gustafson/younger-consumers-are-mor_b_14290774.html

Markets and Markets. (2020, July). Plant-based Protein Market. Retrieved from https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/plant-based-protein-market-14715651.html



Our ingredients. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/our-ingredients/


Our story (n.d.). Retrieved from https://lightlife.com/our-story/


Starostinetskaya, A. (2019, November 16). 90 percent of plant-based food consumers are not vegan or vegetarian.



The Good Food Institute (2020) Plant-Based Market Overview - New SPINS retail sales data. Retrieved from https://www.gfi.org/marketresearch



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