Much like with the clean label movement, distrust of “industrial food” has led some consumers to seek out new avenues for food. Some consumers have come to view animal agriculture as harmful to the environment and/or think that using animals for food is unethical, leading to adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets.

Health concerns are also among the biggest factors in convincing consumers to switch their diets. While some consumers completely cut meat, dairy, or eggs from their lifestyle, many others are not willing to be so strict. Instead, a large and growing group of consumers identify as flexitarian, meaning they are reducing but not eliminating meat or other animal product consumption in favor of plant-based foods.

More consumers than ever before also want to eat more plant-based foods because:

  • they think products that come from plants are healthier
  • ongoing publication of news stories about animal abuse and poor conditions at industrial farms is causing people to think more about where their food comes from and what impact it has on the world
  • concerns about climate change are leading consumers to question whether meat is part of a sustainable diet

Thus, more consumers are turning to plant-forward and plant-centric meals, including plant-based substitutes for animal products such as dairy products and meat, even though they are not cutting out consumption of animal products entirely. Many plant-based foods that are intended to imitate or compete directly with conventional meat or dairy products have been highly processed, but new product launches are jumping into the clean label space with simpler ingredient lists and healthier images that appeal more to consumers who are changing their diets for health reasons.

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Table Of Contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Key Consumer Trends
    • Retail and Restaurant Trends
    • Scope
  • Vegan, Vegetarian, and Flexitarian Overview
    • Highlights
    • Definitions
      • Vegan
      • Vegetarian
      • Pescatarian
      • Flexitarian
      • Omnivore
    • Differences in Eating Patterns Are Personal
      • Vegans May Disagree on What Veganism Means
      • Vegetarians Also Differ on Dietary and Lifestyle Choices
      • Flexitarians Are More Purposeful in Their Eating Habits, But Omnivores Eat Plant- Based Foods Too
      • Religious Eating Restrictions
      • Who Is the Target Audience for Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Alternatives?
  • Food Market Overview and Trends
    • Highlights
    • Plant-Based Eating and Sustainability Are Buzzwords Important to the General Public
    • Clean Label Trends
      • Definition
      • Some Plant-Based Products That Appeal to Vegans, Vegetarians, and Flexitarians Are Shedding the Image of Being Highly Processed
    • Drivers of Food Purchase Decisions
      • More Than Half of Consumers Say Healthfulness Matters More to Them Now When Deciding on Foods to Buy
      • Influential Labels in Food Purchasing Decisions
      • Half of Consumers Say Whether a Food Is Processed Affects Purchasing Decisions
      • A Majority of Consumers Want to Know Where Food Comes From
      • Sustainability Is Important to Many Consumers
      • Most Consumers Think Knowing Whether Food Choices Are Environmentally Sustainable Is Hard
    • Diets and Lifestyle Choices
      • In 2020, the Percentage of Consumers Actively Following a Diet Is Up from 2019
      • Fewer People Are Making Changes to Improve the Healthfulness of Their Diet Than a Decade Ago
      • Losing Weight Is the Top Motivating Factor for Starting a New Diet
      • Most People Who Have Made a Dietary Change in the Past Six Months Are Changing the Types or Amount of Foods They Eat
      • Mindful and Intuitive Eating
      • Consumption of Plant-Based Protein Sources and Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Alternatives Has Increased Since 2019
    • Health Benefits in Foods
      • One-Fourth of Consumers Seek Health Benefits from Foods
      • Nutrients Considered Healthy by Consumers
      • Most Sought After Nutrients
      • Perception of Health Differences in Products
    • Plant-Based Food Market
      • Table Plant-Based Food Market Sales, 2017-2019 (thousand dollars)
    • Per Capita Meat Consumption Expected to Decline in 2020
    • Consumption and Production of Fresh Produce
      • Table Production and Consumption of Fresh Vegetables, Fruits, and Nuts, 2014-2019, 2024 (billion pounds and billion dollars at the manufacturer level)
  • Motivations for Vegan, Vegetarian, and Flexitarian Eating
    • Highlights
    • More than One-Third of Consumers Claim to Primarily Follow a Flexitarian Diet
    • Most Omnivores Have Been Following Their Diet for More than Ten Years, While Vegans and Vegetarians Tend to Be Newer Adherents
      • Table When Consumers Report They Started to Primarily Follow Their Current Diet/Eating Philosophy (percent of consumers)
    • Omnivores Are More Likely to Cite No Reason for Following Their Diet, While Animal Welfare, Environmental Concerns, and Health Are More Often Cited for Other Diets
      • Table Reasons That Consumers Primarily Follow Their Current Diet/Eating Philosophy (percent of consumers)
    • Factors That Affect Consumer Diets
      • Table Factors That Somewhat or Strongly Affect Diet by Consumers of Different Eating Philosophies (percent of consumers)
    • Nearly One-Fourth of Consumers Have Previously Followed A Different Eating Philosophy
    • What Eating Philosophies Did Consumers Previously Follow?
      • Table Previous Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Consumers (percent of consumers who previously followed another diet)
    • Overlap Between Adherents of Eating Philosophies and Other Diets
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Followed by Consumers of Different Eating Philosophies (percent of consumers)
    • Vegans And Vegetarians Are Most Likely to Eat Plant-Based Meat or Dairy Products
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Followed by Consumers of Different Eating Philosophies (percent of consumers)
    • Flexitarians and Omnivores Make Up the Largest Groups of Consumers Who Eat Plant-Based Meat or Dairy Products
    • Vegans and Flexitarians Are Most Open to New Foods and More Likely to Enjoy Cooking and Baking
    • Vegans Are Willing to Pay More for Products They Consider Better
    • Meat Eaters Are Also Concerned About the Meat Industry, and Some Are Turning to More Ethical Meat Consumption
  • Vegan, Vegetarian, and Flexitarian Retail and Restaurant Trends
    • Highlights
    • Characteristics Important When Grocery Shopping
    • Characteristics Important When Eating at Restaurants and Getting Takeout
    • Consumers Changing Shopping Habits in Response to the Pandemic
      • Table Coronavirus Changes to Shopping Behavior: "Because of the coronavirus, I am…" (Agree) (percent of consumers)
    • First Time Use of New Technologies and Order Methods
      • Table Coronavirus Changes to Shopping Behavior: "Because of the coronavirus, I have for the first time used…" (percent of consumers)
    • Consumers Are Using Convenient Order Methods More
      • Table Coronavirus Changes to Shopping Behavior: "Because of the coronavirus, I am using…" (percent of consumers)
    • Vegans, Pescatarians, and Vegetarians Are More Likely to Be Increasing Frozen Food Purchases During the Pandemic
    • Vegans and Vegetarians Are More Likely to Buy Frozen Fruits or Vegetables Than General Consumers
    • Thoughts on Fresh Produce, Food Preservation, and Food Packaging
      • Table Consumer Agreement on Fresh Produce, Food Packaging, and Food Preservation (percent of consumers)
    • Produce Packaging Preferences
    • Online Retailers Specifically Catering to Vegans
    • The "Good Food Retail Report" Ranks Retailers on Product Assortment, Merchandising, and Marketing of Plant-Based Alternatives
  • COVID-19 Effects on Consumers
    • Highlights
    • Flexitarians, Pescatarians, and Vegans Are Most Concerned About the Coronavirus
      • Table Coronavirus Concerns: "I am concerned about the…" (percent of consumers)
    • More Vegans and Pescatarians Report Negative Personal Effects of the Pandemic
      • Table Coronavirus Concerns: "The coronavirus has negatively affected my…" (percent of consumers)
    • Even More Report Negative Effects on Friends/Family
      • Table Coronavirus Concerns: "The coronavirus has negatively affected…" (percent of consumers)
    • Effects on Work and Technology Use
      • Table Coronavirus Concerns: "Because of the coronavirus, I…" (percent of consumers)
    • Consumer Concerns About Safety Are Rising in the Wake of the Pandemic
      • Table Coronavirus Concerns About Safety and Food Waste: "Because of the coronavirus, I am…" (percent of consumers)
    • Eating Habits Are Changing
      • Table Coronavirus Eating Habits: "Because of the coronavirus, I am eating…" (percent of consumers)
    • Expectations of Financial Damage Are Higher Among Pescatarians, Vegetarians, and Vegans
      • Table Coronavirus Eating Habits: "Due to the coronavirus, in upcoming months I expect financial damage to…" (percent of consumers)
  • Consumer Demographics
    • Highlights
    • Younger Consumers Embracing Plant-Based Eating
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Age Bracket (percent of consumers)
    • Higher Income Consumers Are More Likely to Embrace Veganism, Vegetarianism, and Flexitarianism
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Household Income Bracket (percent of consumers)
    • Racial and Ethnic Minorities Less Likely to Be Omnivores
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Race/Ethnicity (percent of consumers)
    • Vegans and Vegetarians Are More Common in the Northeast, Omnivores Most Common in the Midwest
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by U.S. Region (percent of consumers)
    • Urban Consumers Most Likely to Follow Non-Omnivore Diets
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Urban, Suburban/Exurban, and Rural Environment (percent of consumers)
    • Higher Educational Attainment and Current Student Status Correlated with Non-Omnivore Diets
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Level of Educational Attainment (percent of consumers)
    • Children in Household and Marital/Partnership Status Show Difference in Adherence to Non-Omnivore Diets
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Children in Household and Marital/Partnership Status (percent of consumers)
    • Gender Has an Impact on Eating Philosophies, with Young Men More Likely to Be Vegetarian and Young Women More Likely to Be Pescatarian
      • Table Diets/Eating Philosophies Primarily Followed by Gender and Age Brackets by Gender (percent of consumers)