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Eating plant-based foods takes getting used to

The consumption of plant-based foods is growing. However,
factors such as culture, habits, and prosperity determine how
quickly consumption increases, and for what reasons.

Written by KMC

Although the consumption of plant-based foods is generally growing, the speed of this development and the actual intake depend on where in the world you live. In the West, more plant-based raw
materials and meat substitutes are appearing on the supermarket shelves, and are proving increasingly popular with consumers.

However, according to Lise Walbom, CEO at Food Nation, consumption is still low and only increasing slowly: 

“The West is currently in a transition period, and consumers are slowly getting used to increasing their intake of plant-based foods. This is only to be expected, as the majority of their food habits
and traditions have so far been – and still are – tied to meat and animal foods,” she says, adding:

“However, we are seeing a growing level of interest in meat substitutes in countries such as Germany and Spain in particular, where the expectations and requirements regarding plant-based meat
alternatives are generally higher than in other parts of the world.”

Force of habit
Although eating more plant-based foods is generally a growing trend, we can conclude that culture, habits, and prosperity have a decisive influence on how motivated we are and the extent to
which these foods are consumed:

“In a country like Denmark, approx. 95 kg of meat is consumed on average per person per year, while in India the figure is only 5 kg. In India, the food tradition is predominantly vegetarian, and meat
is often considered an optional extra, while the socioeconomic conditions in India are also significantly different,” explains Lise Walbom, and goes on:

“In addition, we see an affluent middle class in both Asia and the Middle East, where meat production is actually growing due to increased economic prosperity.”

A lot is demanded of new, plant-based foods
According to Lise Walbom, if we start with those parts of the world where people need to become accustomed to eating plant-based ingredients and new foods, it is a question of changing consumers’
perceptions of the way in which they compose their meals:

“We need to break with the idea that meat has to play the leading part on our plates, and instead see it as more of a luxury addition,” she says.

We must come round to the idea of eating less but better meat: “If consumers increasingly reduce their total meat intake and instead go for less but better and higher-quality meat, which has perhaps even been produced sustainably, an ever-increasing share of meals will be supplemented with or replaced by plantbased ingredients,” says Lise Walbom.

The Food Nation CEO explains that in such cases we will also see consumers in future demanding more of the many plant-based meat substitutes already available in supermarkets:

“For people for whom meat still plays a central role in their meals, meat substitutes offer an attractive alternative to pure plant crops. However, consumers demand a lot in terms of the quality, taste,
texture, and appearance of plant-based meat substitutes if they are to become an attractive and well-known alternative to chicken, pork, etc.” says Lise Walbom. She adds:

“It would be fantastic if we, as consumers, could just accept that a vegetarian steak need not taste the same as animal meat, but just taste the way a plant-based steak happens to taste. But we’re
not there yet. If we want to push consumers in a more plant-based direction, they need to be nudged and inspired with recognizable and non-exotic alternatives.”

Sustainable food systems gaining ground
If we zoom out and consider plant-based diets as part of a larger, sustainable movement, we can see that sustainability is increasingly being associated with healthy living, and that producers with

sustainable food systems will contribute to a clear improvement in global health.

This appears from Food Nation’s latest Insight Report from October 2022, which explores how four countries perceive the relationship between sustainability and health.

It can be seen, among other things, that 86% of respondents from the four selected markets – Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and the UK – believe that consumers will demand more healthy foods in the future, while 80% point out that food systems focused on food safety throughout the value chain are important for consumers’ overall health:

“It is no longer enough that both animal and plant-based foods simply taste good. Consumers will increasingly be concerned that the food they consume is produced under sustainable conditions,”
says Lise Walbom in conclusion.

For food manufacturers, there are many perspectives to be considered if consumers are to be pushed in a more plant-based direction. Here, increased requirements relating to taste and health
play a crucial role for greener food consumption.

Want to know more about our sustainable goals and ambitions?

Read the sustainability report here

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