The Future of Plant-Based Products: Overcoming Challenges, Embracing Innovation

Plant-based products have exploded in popularity in recent years, as more consumers seek out alternatives to animal products for health, environmental or ethical reasons. However, the plant-based industry is currently facing some challenges that could impact its future growth.     Research from 84.51° shows that while a majority of consumers maintained or increased their consumption of plant-based products over the past year, there are concerns about factors like higher prices and lack of availability that could hamper continued growth. With inflation leading to rising costs, plant-based products tend to cost more than conventional animal products, making them less accessible to some consumers, though ironically, since the price of meat has also increased, the price gap between plant-based and animal based has decreased over the past year. Regional and/or inconsistent distribution also makes plant-based items harder to find in some stores compared to mainstream options. 

Reimagining taste and texture

At the same time, many consumers are unhappy with the taste and texture of some plant-based alternatives. They’re looking for products that match meat and other conventional foods in taste and texture, but common criticisms of plant-based options include claims that these offerings have a plastic-like or unnatural taste, or a grainy texture. These perceptions can keep consumers from re-purchasing – or even trialing – plant-based products. As a result, brands should continue innovating to improve taste and texture to win over more mainstream consumers.     However, while the plant-based industry faces these headwinds, the outlook isn't all gloom and doom. Our research indicates health and sustainability are top reasons consumers choose plant-based products.   

Keeping health in mind

When consumers say health is the number-one reason they choose plant-based foods, they’re referring to both their own personal health as well as the health of the planet.  With diet-related health conditions like heart disease, obesity and diabetes ranking as some of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and growing concern about industrial animal agriculture's environmental impact, consumers have good reasons to maintain or increase plant-based eating. Brands that can deliver on taste and affordability while communicating health and sustainability benefits are poised for success.  

Ecommerce will contribute to growth

Additionally, expanding availability of plant-based foods online and making sure that these brands can easily be found and are searchable will continue to drive growth in the industry. 

Innovating to meet consumer needs

While the current environment poses challenges, the plant-based movement overall shows resilience and the potential to keep growing. The companies that listen to consumer demands and innovate to create delicious, accessible options are the ones that will shape the future of the industry. There is still a bright future for plant-based products as more consumers align their needs, diets and values.  

Download the full presentation from the Natural Products Expo East. 


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