By Nancy Mann Jackson
You’ve probably heard that the number of people following a flexitarian eating pattern is increasing. But why? And what does that really mean?
FIRST session, “The Global Demand for Protein and the Rise of Flexitarians,” delivers a crash course into what a flexitarian eating pattern is, which types of consumers are choosing this eating pattern, and why it may be a healthy, sustainable way to live, as well as information about the types of products that may help drive the trend moving forward.
Thirty-six percent of American adults call themselves flexitarians, meaning they eat mostly a plant-based diet, actively limiting meat, but they also add animal products at times, says Kristie Leigh, senior manager of scientific affairs at Danone North America.
Generally, younger consumers, such as those identifying as millennial and Gen Z, are more familiar with the term “flexitarian” and more likely to embrace this way of eating, says Amanda Torgerson, research lead at Datassential.
If “flexitarian” sounds like “flexible,” that’s because it is. In fact, the flexibility of this eating pattern is one of the main reasons people are likely to stick to it, Leigh says.
Flexitarianism is a balanced way of eating, which encourages variety rather than restriction, and focuses on limitation rather than elimination. There are no set rules for how much or how often to add animal products.
Why are so many people becoming flexitarians? For many of the young adherents, social pressures are an important influence: “The single best thing you can do to help with climate change is to lower your meat intake,” Torgerson says.
In addition to environmental and social benefits, a flexitarian eating pattern also allows for more choice and individual preference, and offers health benefits. It can help fill nutrient gaps, improve nutrient density, and help with weight management.
However, when a person limits their intake of meat or animal products, getting enough protein is always an important concern. The global demand for protein continues to increase as the world’s population grows and incomes rise, and both animal proteins and plant proteins will be required to meet that demand, says Keenan McRoberts, vice president, science and program strategy, United Soybean Board. By 2050, the global demand will increase between 30% and 50% from today’s global protein consumption, McRoberts says.
Flexitarians have a variety of choices for getting the protein they need. They often eat both traditional and plant-based dairy products, such as both animal-based milk and soy milk, which are good sources of complete protein, Leigh says.
Other options include lentils, kidney beans, peas, chickpeas, and quinoa, but soy offers the highest percentage of protein per kilocalorie, McRoberts explains. Soy offers a high-quality, easily digestible protein and soybeans produce the highest protein yield per land area compared with legumes and other plant-based proteins.
And soy farming is compatible with climate change concerns. Ninety-five percent of U.S. soy farmers are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement sustainable farming practices, McRoberts says. They’re also exploring new opportunities for providing soy-based protein products for flexitarian lifestyles.
Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance journalist based in Huntsville, Ala.
What if you could produce coffee in a lab using fewer resources and without the need for land? Researchers at VTT in Finland have done just that using cellular agriculture.
The COVID-19 virus sparked an acute health crisis, with near miracle accomplishments to develop vaccines in a year’s time, and national resolve to stem its devastation. But America’s existing obesity epidemic-pandemic (O E-P) is an enduring, chronic health crisis.
SnapDNA, creator of a rapid pathogen detection system for food processing facilities, clinched top honors and a $25,000 prize as the winner of the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ Pitch Competition, held Wednesday during the FIRST virtual event.
Values-based marketing and two-way dialogue will become essential tools for CPG brands to engage with an increasingly informed, opinionated—and often conflicted—consumer base, a duo of marketing and consumer behavior experts told FIRST attendees on Wednesday.
News about food science research, food companies, food regulations, and consumer/marketplace trends
AlixPartners 2021 Health and Wellness Survey and Hartman Group Health and Wellness Across the Globe report.
High-profile megabrands no longer dominate, but startup companies with an authentic story and strategic social media support have the power to successfully build brand loyalty.
FDA recently announced the winners of its public challenge designed to spur the creation of affordable traceability tools as part of its New Era of Smarter Food Safety efforts.
In honor of National Food Safety Education Month, we highlight three sessions from FIRST, IFT’s new annual event experience, that explored important areas in food safety.
The new field of Food Science for Relief and Development (FSRD) offers a fresh, high-impact approach to tackling problems of global food security, poverty, and malnutrition.