From Impossible Burgers at your favorite restaurant to oat milk as an option at the coffee shop, plant-based options are big.
But what's driving consumer interest in plant-based food and beverages? We dove deep into their conversations to discover three main drivers: animal welfare, health, and sustainability.
Animal welfare far outstrips health and sustainability as drivers of plant-based eating.
While consumers talk about all three alongside plant-based, animal welfare is the clear standout, over-indexing with plant-based at a rate of 14.2x higher than the average food and beverage topic.
It's no surprise to see concerns about animal welfare topping the list of reasons consumers are turning to plant-based food and beverages.
Topics related to animal welfare arise in 18.7% of posts about plant-based. References to animal cruelty appear in the bulk of those conversations, signalling that plant-based consumers are looking more humane eating options.
While it might be tempting to assume that plant-based eaters are really just vegans with new branding, that isn't the case.
In fact, with plant-based consumers talking less about vegan topics and vegan consumers talking less about plant-based ones, it's clear that vegan and plant-based consumer segments are seeing increased differentiation rather than overlap.
If there's one trend that's dominating pretty much every market at the moment, it's probably health and wellness. Health concerns dominate plant-based food and beverage, with mentions in over half of all conversations.
While general concerns about health and well-being are certainly central, the specifics are where things get really interesting:
Consumers turn to plant-based foods as a means of managing their cholesterol and improving their gut's microbiome.
Heart and gut health over-index with plant-based topics, suggesting that consumers seek out these foods for their functional benefits as well as nutrition. Consumers aren't just looking for a good meal, they're looking to eat their way to good health.
Recognizing consumers' health related motivations empowers brands to position products and craft messaging that aligns with their existing needs.
Green topics make up 8.3% of consumer conversations about plant-based food. Plant-based consumers are looking to go beyond reducing their meat intake—they're also interested in sustainable packaging when buying plant-based products.
Terms related to sustainable packaging over-index with plant-based consumers, suggesting another avenue for brands to align their values with those of their customers.
While "plastic-free" and "compostable" don't yet penetrate plant-based conversations to any significant degree, concerns about the viability of recycling and the threat of climate change may result in increased overlap between the two.
As the plant-based market becomes more saturated, brands may need to differentiate not just what they're selling but the way it's packaged.
Plant-based isn't just an industry buzzword, it's also a massive consumer trend. Even without first-mover advantage, food and beverage brands can distinguish themselves among a growing crowd of contenders by truly understanding their customers.
Drawing upon themes like animal welfare, sustainability, and health can help brands address consumers' concerns and speak their language, leading to a fruitful future for both.