The flexitarian revolution

How many times a week do you eat meat? It has probably been some time since you have eaten it every day. More and more people are becoming aware of the impact of meat consumption on their health and the environment and are, therefore, more frequently ringing the changes with vegetarian meals: a flexitarian diet, in other words. During the 10th Protein Summit, as a speaker and audience member, I gained insights which seamlessly match Garden Gourmet’s vision of the growth opportunities in this plant-based market. We are on the eve of a flexitarian revolution.

10th Protein Summit

At the 10th Protein Summit, attention was devoted to all the major protein-related topics: not just the availability of proteins and the impact on food security, economics and geopolitics, but also the impact of protein production on the climate and, naturally, the transition to more vegetable proteins. Tremendous opportunities exist for this vegetal industry:

·        In 2016, 55% of Americans were planning to eat vegetable products more often; 30% of US millennials eat a meat alternative every day and 70% a couple of times a week.

·        In Europe, too, we are seeing a clear flexitarian focus: In Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden and England, 24% to 35% of daily meals contain no fish or meat.

·        The scope of the meat replacement category is expected to grow to more than 2 billion consumers by 2020.

·        Over the past 5 years, the search volume on Google for concepts such as “vegan”, “plant-based” and “veggie burger” has increased by more than 40%.

In a presentation at the Protein Summit, prepared by Pinar Hosafci, senior global food analyst at Euromonitor International (presented by Gerard Klein Essink), the overconsumption of (animal) proteins in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Spain, in particular was shown. Unsurprisingly, therefore, governments in Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Argentina and China are actively promoting plant-based diets and highlighting concerns with regard to the overconsumption of animal proteins. Health and sustainability are universal drivers for the growth of the vegetarian category.

Garden Gourmet’s vision

During the summit, also in my capacity as an ambassador for Garden Gourmet, I shared my vision of European developments in the meat replacement industry as we perceive them on a daily basis in our local markets and as they are reflected in our Consumer Usage & Attitudes surveys. At Garden Gourmet, rather than opposing meat, we believe in making the rich vegetarian cuisine more appealing. We are particularly proud of our tasty vegetarian products and apply the following focal points.

1.      Taste and quality are key. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The product must therefore never be disappointing in terms of taste and it should always be surprising and fulfil the requirement.

2.      A healthy, balanced diet is a hygiene factor. Consumers are increasingly conscious and critical in their choices, also checking for salt, artificial additives and saturated fats. The products must therefore be of as pure nature as possible and comply with the directives of the local food agency.

3.      Variation and inspiration are essential. To assist consumers practically, offering a varied range with something for everybody works best. There also needs to be plenty of inspiration for whipping up the most delicious vegetarian meals. Nice and easy.

4.      Most rejecters of the category do so, because of perception. It is therefore crucial to build brand and category awareness to recruit new consumers.

Finally: I believe that cooperation is the new competition. I am therefore arguing for a structural vegetarian collaboration throughout Europe. As the vegetarian category grows, together we will be taking a step in the right direction. Here’s to 50% vegetable proteins by 2025!

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