How Plant-Based Meats Meet the Goals of the Aspirational Shopper

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InsightsNow Plant-Based Meat

How Plant-Based Meats Meet the Goals of the Aspirational Shopper

This month, we continue to look at aspirational shopping motivations—and how market research can help reduce the shopping “gap” between those aspirations and the shopper’s reality (which often include aspects like taste, price and convenience). To understand more about this concept, check out our blog “The Aspirational Shopper in the Real World.” Some main consumer aspirations we’ve identified are goals like better nutrition, ethical considerations, and environmental sustainability. 


Plant-Based Meats & Aspirational Fulfillments

One growing shopping category that has the potential to meet many of these aspirations is the plant-based meat vertical. Not only are plant-based meats perceived to be physically healthier by consumers with their low saturated fats and high vegetable content—these alternatives also take into account ethical considerations like animal welfare—and are simply better for the planet from a sustainability standpoint than regular meats.


Fulfilling Nutritional Aspirations

According to Science Daily, “plant-based products…tend to have better nutritional profiles compared to animal products.” Most of the plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than their counterparts, helping shoppers obtain aspirations of generally eating healthier with plant-based meat features of lower saturated fats, more fiber and more healthy vegetables. Plant-based meats can also help fulfill specific health goals, like reducing carcinogen exposure or lowering cholesterol to fight heart disease. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that participants who swapped two or more servings per day of animal meat for plant-based meat for eight weeks had “lower levels of TMAO (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and lower LDL cholesterol.” 


But as we discussed in our recent CPG Matters LEAD Conference presentation, and our recent InsightsNow webinar, consumers don’t necessarily want to trade the enjoyment of their food for nutritional reasons. So how should plant-based brands respond? By taking a deep look at consumer motivations, through techniques like implicit testing, brands can learn how to best implement and communicate these health benefits to target markets for product success—and to close the gap between these aspirations and reality.


Fulfilling Ethical Aspirations

Another area we look at when identifying consumer aspirations is ethical considerations when shopping. A big part of this is animal welfare. By making the switch to plant-based meats, shoppers can tick that box off in their aspirational goal list. A BHG article states: “Since plant-based meats are vegetarian or vegan, we may safely conclude that these products are a whole lot kinder and gentler to our fellow creatures than meat.” In fact, USA Today reports that just offering plant-based meat alternatives at restaurants last year saved more than 700K animals. This is an important ethical consideration for many shoppers, but often there is that aspirational gap between wanting to act on animal ethics, and the real-world shopping environment.


Fulfilling Sustainability Aspirations

Consumers often state their concern for environmental issues and sustainability. Plant-based meats try to meet this demand and close the gap on many fronts. It has been found that, for example, plant-based burgers produced 98% less greenhouse gas emissions than beef burgers. A win on the environmental front, but many consumers can’t give up the taste of beef even when faced with this clear environmental advantage.  


Another environmental win for plant-based meats is saving water. The Good Food Institute finds that plant-based meat production uses 72-99% less water and causes 51-91% less water pollution than traditional meat production. Consumers know that by transitioning to plant-based meat and other alternative proteins, they can safeguard and improve many environmental factors so it is key to understand how to develop products that can also satisfy other shopping considerations in tandem with environmental sustainability. 


Using Market Research to Understand Consumer Goals

So how can plant-based brands balance these clear aspirational goals with some of the shopping realities of convenience, taste and price? When plant-based product brands understand the whys behind human behavior, through the right market research approaches, they can make sure their product development teams and marketing teams can help close the gaps between aspirations and reality in the marketplace. We talk specifically about plant-based meats as a case study, and the market research approaches to succeed, in our upcoming CPG Matters presentation “Going Beyond Clean Label – Targeting Aspirational Goals.