USA, Washington. A consumer survey on plant alternatives to meat highlights that nutrition facts are more influential than the ingredients list.
Every so often a new food trend captures our attention, only to fade once the novelty wears off. Vegetarian alternatives have been in vogue for years and at present, plant-based alternatives are the focus of consumers. The International Food Information Council’s (IFIC’s) latest consumer survey takes a closer look.
The survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ in December 2019 and by the IFIC. Founded in 1985, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) is a nonprofit organization supported by the food, beverage, and agricultural industries. IFIC does not represent any product or company, nor does it lobby for legislative or regulatory action.
The survey began by asking participants what type of diet they follow and provided definitions for the following options: omnivore, vegetarian, vegetarian on some days but not all days, vegan and pescatarian. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority (66%) of people in our survey identified as omnivores.
Nearly half (49%) of survey participants reported having tried these newer meatless products. Looking closer, here are a few factors associated with the likelihood of having eaten a plant alternative to meat: Diet type, income, age, gender and education.
While there are a variety of reasons why people have tried plant alternatives to animal meat, the top reason for doing so is liking to try new foods (41%).
Among the people in our survey who have not tried one of these products, the top reason was the anticipation that these alternatives won’t taste good (31%). Other commonly reported factors for not having tried a product included that the respondents were not trying to eat less meat (19%) and “no specific reason” (21%). A little more than one in ten (12%) reported that they plan to eat one eventually, but just haven’t yet.
While not the top factor for choosing to consume a plant alternative to animal meat, there was a strong belief that these products are better for the environment than animal meat. While nearly half of survey takers (47%) believed that plant alternatives are better for the environment than animal meat, only 5% believed plant alternatives to be worse for the environment. The other half of survey respondents believed plant alternatives have an equal impact on the environment (23%) or were unsure (24%). Plant alternatives are viewed as healthier based on Nutrition Facts.
While a variety of factors appeared to influence health perceptions, one aspect - the Nutrition Facts - carried the most weight. Nearly one-quarter of our survey participants (23%) said that the Nutrition Facts influenced their health perception more than the ingredient list, while fewer said that the ingredient list influenced their health perception more than Nutrition Facts (14%).