Plant-based protein alternatives will not be the demise of the traditional meat industry. That’s the consensus of a new report from Nielson, which finds that nearly all (98%) meat alternative buyers also purchase meat.
These shoppers are called “flexitarian,” and it’s the latest dietary trend, except it’s far less restrictive than options like keto, alkaline and tapeworm diets. The Nielson report says flexitarian is “perfect for consumers who are willing to delve heavily into both traditional meat and plant-based alternatives—and they’re ushering in a new area of protein consumption in the process.”
Research data finds only 5% of U.S. households are vegetarian or vegan, compared to 60% of households that agree having the right dietary balance of both plant and animal foods is important. Nielson finds that less than a third (27%) of meat alternative purchasers buy meat alternative products five or more times a year.
“So if we define flexitarian as medium and heavy buyers of both meat and meat alternatives, they account for 37% of all meat alternative buyers and they spend $643 on meat every year—a whopping $165 more per year than the average meat buyer,” Nielson reports.
According to recent Nielsen data, a whopping 62% of consumers are willing to reduce meat consumption due to environmental concerns, and 43% say they would replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein. Interestingly, while not yet commercially viable, 12% of consumers stated they would be willing to eat cell-cultured meat grown in a lab. With new innovations, health and wellness and social considerations, plant-based foods will continue to shine and grow.
But meat is formidable and resilient—due in part to its relative affordability. Chicken, pork and turkey cost the least per gram, at 2 cents, well below the 10 cents for meat alternatives, 13 cents for nuts and 20 cents for nutrition bars.
With $190 billion in U.S. sales across the store, protein in general — not matter what type — is a top priority for the American shopper.