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Meat Alternatives Have Gone Mainstream

No longer just a niche offering for “tree huggers,” meat alternatives have gone mainstream, with nearly three in four Americans having tried at least one type.

While experimentation-friendly burgers are the most likely to have been tried overall (perhaps due to increased availability of plant-based options in both retail and restaurants), consumers are also somewhat regularly biting into plant-based snacks, sides, appetizers, and sandwiches.

By the numbers, % who have consumed the meat-alternatives at all:

  • 57%: vegetarian or vegan burger
  • 51%: a meat substitute for snacks, sides, or apps
  • 47%: a COP entrée made with a meat substitute
  • 45% sandwich or hand-held with a meat substitute
  • 44%: vegetarian or vegan sausage or hot dog
  • 39%: vegetarian or vegan seafood substitute
  • 37%: plant-based charcuterie
  • 34%: plant-based jerky

What’s more, not only are consumers giving these options a try, but most are also willing to pay more for these alternatives (sometimes as much as $3 per serving). Boomers have the lowest tolerance for higher prices and Gen Z consumers are the most willing to pay more.

However, consumers aren’t willing to jump into alternatives unless they are “meat” for their needs. Taste is the number one motivating factor to eat more meat alternatives. Availability, uniqueness, and environmental impact are less likely to drive trial

Overall consumption will likely keep increasing. Operators and suppliers need to respond by taking a look at their own menus and product portfolios to be sure they don’t get left behind.

Content courtesy of Unilever Food Solutions


Datassential “Plant-Based Alternatives” Report, April 2021

Datassential fielded this wave of research in February 2021 with 994 US consumers