Nielsen Total Convenience data shows meat alternative sales were up 16.7% for the latest 52-week period ending Dec. 26, 2020, compared with the previous year, and 40.1% for Q4 of 2020. And according to a Jan. 11, 2021, CivicScience survey, 15% of U.S. adults said they are interested in made-to-order plant-based meat products at convenience stores.
So, what does ‘plant-based’ really mean? Is it the same as ‘vegan’?
The term ‘plant-based’ refers eating foods primarily, if not entirely, from plants. This includes fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans.
One example of a plant-based diet or eating pattern is the Mediterranean diet, which has a foundation of plant-based foods but includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression and, in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
The term ‘plant-based’ is sometimes confused with ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian.’ But people who are on a plant-based diet are not necessarily vegetarian nor vegan; they may still eat animal meat and/or byproducts like cow’s milk or eggs. However, they are proportionately choosing more of their foods from plant sources.
By contrast, a person who is vegan typically refrains entirely from consuming foods that come from animals, including meat, dairy and eggs. Vegetarians, on the other hand, typically eat dairy. Some people consider eggs to be vegetarian, while other do not.
The term ‘ethical vegan’ is sometimes used for those who not only follow a vegan diet but extends the philosophy into other areas of their lives, opposing the use of animals for any purpose, such as leather clothes, for example.
And ‘environmental veganism’ is used to describe to the avoidance of animal products based on the notion that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
In December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency gave regulatory approval for the world’s first lab-grown meat product. And according to Barclays, the market for meat alternatives could be worth $140 billion within the next decade, or about 10% of the $1.4 trillion global meat industry.
As it continues to gain momentum, there will be increased innovation in the plant-based and meat alternatives space in 2021 and beyond.