There's no denying that alternative sources of protein are trending. Climate change concerns have accelerated an already-growing interest in a plant-based diet, and it has fuelled a plant-based product and recipe boom. That's not to say that meat is completely off the menu. Recent research from Nielsen revealed that 98% of people who purchase alternative (plant-based) meats also buy meat. This should not come as much of a surprise. 'Flexitarian' and 'Meatless Monday' are terms which have gone mainstream in recent years. Not just that, but plant-based meat companies themselves have been working to make their products more appealing to carnivores.
"Our aim is to drive more people to eat plant-based food, which is better for the environment and the planet."
Oumph! Marketing Director Henrik Åkerman
Interestingly, in a recent article on The Spoon, Catherine Lamb concluded that Beyond Beef, a plant-based ground beef, was too realistic for her vegetarian tastes.
This statistic from Nielsen illustrates a growing interest in flexitarianism - 37% of those who purchase alternative meats are Flexitarian. It suggests that consumers are buying for a variety of dietary choices within the one household. It also illustrates that consumers are willing to reduce their meat consumption, but not remove it from their diets completely.
This is all good news for grocery retailers, food brands and recipe platforms searching for new ways to engage with consumers in a meaningful way. We know that consumers struggle with meal planning and finding recipe inspiration at the best of times. This process becomes even more difficult when you're trying to reduce your consumption of animal products. Grocery retailers, in particular, are uniquely placed to spot and understand shifts in the way consumers are choosing to eat thanks to the volume of customer data they collect. This data is already being used by many retailers to offer personalised recipe inspiration, but it's crying out to be taken a step further.
We often use Tesco as an example of a grocery retailer that is doing recipes right thanks to their shoppable meal planner. Although they don't promote their featured meal plans as flexitarian-friendly, choosing to focus on seasonality instead, these meal plans do include 1-3 vegan and/ or vegetarian recipes. For consumers getting to grips with reducing meat consumption in particular, this is incredibly an incredibly valuable tool that should keep them engaged with Tesco's recipe content going forward, but Tesco is missing a trick by not promoting these meal plans as flexitarian.
Source: Tesco Real Food
A well-targeted social media campaign is key to the success of using meal plans and recipe inspiration as a way to engage flexitarians. When consumers are in the midst of a lifestyle change, recommendations, particularly recipe recommendations, matter. (Pinch of Nom's success attests to that.) When those recommendations come from a mainstream grocery retailer or food brands, it removes barriers and illustrates to consumers that this lifestyle change is accessible. When using meal plans to engage with flexitarians, it's vital to drive home the message on social media that these meal plans are specifically designed to make reducing meat consumption as simple as possible. Since 98% of alternative meat purchasers also buy meat, there's no denying that consumers are, for a variety of reasons, shifting towards a plant-based diet. Food marketing teams that ignore this opportunity to support consumers with meal plans and recipe inspiration during this shift risk losing out on the spending power of this growing flexitarian demographic.