Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb

Plate of sliced fruits

The uptick in plant-based food consumption hints at wider acceptance of flexitarianism, which considers a well-balanced diet to contain more vegetables and fruits and less meat or dairy. ©sveta_zarzamora/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Plate of sliced fruits

The uptick in plant-based food consumption hints at wider acceptance of flexitarianism, which considers a well-balanced diet to contain more vegetables and fruits and less meat or dairy. ©sveta_zarzamora/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Flexitarianism on the rise

U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods, especially younger adults and those actively following a specific diet, an indication that flexitarianism is enjoying growing acceptance, according to a survey report published by Packaged Facts.

Of those participating in the consumer survey, 3% follow a vegan diet, 3% are pescatarian, and 5% are vegetarian. The majority (53%) of consumers are primarily omnivorous, while 36% of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian, consuming meat or poultry as well as vegan or vegetarian meals.

“Despite use of plant-based meat-alternative or dairy-alternative products being highest among those following vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian diets, omnivores and flexitarians make up the lion’s share of consumers who eat these products due to their sheer numbers. This reveals that both the current and addressable market for plant-based products depends on omnivores and flexitarians using more of these products,” said Jennifer Mapes-Christ, Packaged Facts’ food and beverage publisher, in a press release.

Although omnivores may eat meat with most meals, flexitarians tend to consume fresh produce at relatively high rates and consider a well-balanced diet to contain more vegetables and fruits and less meat or dairy in either portion sizes or presence in meals.

Transparency tops trends for 2021

In their quest for foods and ingredients that support personal health, consumers are increasingly interested in supply chain transparency, according to Innova Market Insights, which named “Transparency Triumphs” the top trend for 2021.

“Transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate,” remarked Lu Ann Williams, director of insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights, in a press release.

With six in 10 global consumers interested in learning more about where their food comes from, Innova believes transparency will be critical to meeting evolving ethical, environmental, and clean label demands. Looking back to 2020’s top trend, “Storytelling: Winning with Words,” Innova notes that manufacturers who are adopting new packaging technologies, such as invisible barcodes, and pairing them with near-field communication technology and meaningful storytelling are likely to be successful.

The following trends round out the top five list:

• Plant-Forward. The rising appeal of plant-based eating will expand to different regions and categories in 2021, which will drive demand for new formats, plant proteins, and more sophisticated alternatives that respond to consumers’ concerns about health, diet variety, sustainability, and taste.

• Tailored to Fit. With 64% of global consumers finding ways to tailor their life and products to their individual style, beliefs, and needs, look for technological breakthroughs, constant new launches, and exciting sensorial experiences in food and beverage consumption.

• New Omnichannel Eating. Foodservice and retail domains are increasingly overlapping, allowing consumers wider choice in what, when, and where they eat. In addition to restaurant delivery, consumers are able to purchase many specialty products previously only available via foodservice. Forty-six percent find these items a convenient way to enjoy restaurant flavors at home.

• In Tune With Immune. As a result of the pandemic, consumers will continue to prioritize immune health, with immunity-boosting ingredients playing a significant role. Research and interest in the microbiome and personalized nutrition will also accelerate.

Grocery spending increases 17%

Among the areas impacted by the pandemic, grocery shopping is one of the most visible, with changes taking place in the products consumers buy, the frequency of shopping trips, and the amount spent.

In a survey of more than 1,000 consumers in the United States, LendingTree found that average weekly grocery spending increased by 17%, from $163 pre-pandemic to $190 currently. Overspending has been on the rise as well, with 31% of respondents saying they “almost always” overspend at the grocery store.

Men (44%) were twice as likely as women (20%) to say they exceeded their food budget; they also made more shopping trips than women. Parents were overspenders as well, shopping more frequently due to the pandemic than non-parents.

More than half (53%) of respondents indicated they visit multiple grocery stores each trip, including 60% of parents in search of items on sale. The trips include wholesale stores for bulk items and supermarkets for everyday needs. To cut down on trips, 63% of consumers have been using food delivery services at least once a week, including 86% of Generation X consumers.

There’s no question the pandemic has spurred increased grocery shopping, whether because of a rise in the number of family members at home or because of the tendency to stock up in times of uncertainty. The increase in grocery spending, says Lending-Tree, is costing households about $100 more each month, a fact reflected in another LendingTree study, which found a rise in grocery store spending in 49 states.

Decanter of oil

Rapeseed is a rich source of plant-based protein, and byproducts from the production of rapeseed oil show promise as ingredients for new food products. ©Maya23K/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Decanter of oil

Rapeseed is a rich source of plant-based protein, and byproducts from the production of rapeseed oil show promise as ingredients for new food products. ©Maya23K/iStock/Getty Images Plus

 

Rapeseed protein offers alternative to soy

Rapeseed has the potential to become the preferred source of plant-based protein for humans, according to a study published in Nutrients by nutrition scientists at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

Protein is a vital part of the human diet, as it contains essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized in the body. Researcher Gabriele Stangl from the Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences at MLU and her colleagues were interested in investigating whether rapeseed, which has a comparably beneficial composition of amino acids, could be an alternative to soy. Since rapeseed is already being cultivated in Europe, its protein-rich byproducts could be used as ingredients for new food products.

During the study, participants ate specific meals on three separate days. One meal contained no additional protein, and the others were enriched with either soy protein or rapeseed protein. Following the meal, blood was drawn from the participants over a six-hour period to assess acute metabolic response. Results indicated comparable beneficial effects on human metabolism for rapeseed and soy protein, with glucose metabolism and satiety better for rapeseed. Rapeseed also showed promise from a sustainability perspective, as the proteins can be obtained from byproducts of rapeseed oil production.

“The rapeseed protein induced comparable effects on metabolic parameters and cardiovascular risk factors as soy protein. Rapeseed even produced a slightly more beneficial insulin response in the body,” explained nutritionist Christin Volk in a press release. “To conclude, rapeseed appears to be a valuable alternative to soy in the human diet.”

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb,
Associate Editor,
[email protected]
Margaret Malochleb