Demand for meat alternatives on the rise as eating habits change

Retailers and food businesses are pressed to deliver new improved meat alternatives in the market for New Zealanders who have reduced their meat consumption or those who have stopped eating meat altogether.

Thomas King, Food Frontier CEO, said as more Kiwis reduce their meat intake for their health, the planet and other reasons, many are seeking out tasty and nutritious alternatives to their favourite foods.

“In turn, retailers and food businesses are working hard to deliver new and improved meat alternatives, so people don’t have to compromise to find convenient and familiar foods, like mince and meatballs, that address their growing health, environmental or ethical concerns,” King said.

Non-profit think tank and industry accelerator for alternative proteins Food Frontier and Life Health Foods recently released the study “Hungry for Plant-Based: New Zealand Consumer Insights” and revealed that one in three New Zealanders, about 34 per cent of the respondents, are now reducing their meat consumption or eating no meat at all.

The study of 1,107 respondents also revealed a range of diet types based on levels of meat consumption. It found that 31 per cent of New Zealanders are flexitarian or meat-reducers, meaning they are actively limiting their consumption of meat, and a further three per cent of New Zealanders are vegetarian or vegan, eating no meat at all.

According to Food Frontier’s research, plant-based meat alternatives have evolved from traditional options like lentil-based veggie burgers to a new generation of products that aim to mimic the sensory experience of the meat most New Zealanders grew up enjoying.

Along with retailers rapidly expanding this category in a rush to meet consumer demand comes varied product quality, and respondents indicated this in naming taste as a barrier to trying plant-based meat alternatives. Nutrition and price were also listed as common barriers.

Mark Roper, international marketing manager of Life Health Foods, said the surge in interest in plant-based foods has been well-documented but understanding specifically what Kiwis are looking for and concerned about helps plant-based food suppliers better cater to people’s needs.

The study also sought to determine whether this rapid increase of new plant-based meat products was causing consumer confusion at the grocery store. For the vast majority of New Zealanders, the answer was no. About 94 per cent said they’d never mistakenly purchased a plant-based product thinking it was its conventional meat counterpart, or vice versa.

As for the other 6 per cent who’d made a shopping mistake, they were more likely to be a vegetarian or vegan. While only one in five New Zealanders have tried ‘new generation’ plant-based meat alternatives, a further 44 per cent of people expressed that they’d like to try them, including half, 49 per cent, of meat-reducers.

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