‘The opportunity of Plant-based foods in LATAM is real,’ says DuPont

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Rawf8
© Getty Images / Rawf8

Related tags: plant-based protein, Dupont, flexitarian

Colombia, Brazil and Argentina are leading the way in Latin America for interest in plant proteins, according to a new survey from DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.

Survey data revealed that interest in plant protein in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina is 78%, 67% and 65%, respectively. For these consumers, texture, appearance and, in particular, taste that imitates meat products is vital.

Plant-based foods are gaining momentum and the opportunity is real,”​ said Glauco Pinto, Marketing Lead for South America, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences

As food-based trends latch onto the rise of plant-based, mindful eating and balanced diet​ demands from consumers, formulators and manufacturers seek to appeal to these healthier eating habits through healthy produce.

The appeal and push towards healthier eating concepts do not only apply to diets but overall health, wellbeing and the planet also, DuPont N&B pointed out.

Plant proteins interest big in LATAM markets

Commenting on the popularity of the flexitarian trend and what it means for manufacturers and marketers moving forward, Pinto said: “This trend is a huge market opportunity as flexitarian consumers want to increase their consumption of plant-based foods without giving up taste, texture, juiciness, bite sensation and appearance.”

Flexitarian consumers were found to be more accepting of processed foods than consumers eating a vegetarian or vegan-based diet, findings showed. Demographically, the millennial age group leads the uptake of a flexitarian diet and favor non-meat-based ‘hamburgers’ and ready-to-eat protein dishes.

Due to their purchasing power and the decision-making factors that influence lifestyle choices and product purchases, “the millennial generation is the big driver of these trends” ​Pinto noted, “leading the search for plant-based meat substitutes”.

According to Mintel’s research on What Consumers Really Think About Alternative Proteins 2018, millennials are demanding healthy, sustainable and affordable food solutions.

Flexitarian consumers also want to “eat plant-based foods that perfectly mimic the traditional hamburgers, nuggets and ready-to-eat dishes such as pasta Bolognese sauce or meatballs”,​ added Pinto.

Flexitarian market takes hold

In answer to the question: Are consumers opting for a complete plant-based diet or is flexitarianism a more popular choice, to gradually shift away from a meat-filled diet?,  Pinto emphasized that consumers are “adding, not replacing”​.

In Latin America, there is a “huge market opportunity” ​in the flexitarian segment. As people are opting to reduce their meat consumption without removing animal protein from their diets, flexitarianism encourages brands to look at vegetable and grain innovations to provide supplements for use in everyday consumer diets. 

Consumers are reducing their meat consumption, but without fully giving up on animal protein, and adding more vegetables and grains to their diet,” ​Pinto went on to say.

A Health Focus survey (2017)  interviewed more than 9000 consumers in Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Russia, Sweden, England, and the United States. The survey found that the increase in the consumption of plant-based products is global, with more than 70% of the people in the surveyed countries raising their consumption levels of such products.

Health is the leading factor influencing the increased awareness, interest in and uptake of plant-based diets, followed by sustainability concerns including animal welfare and creating a sustainable environment.

Maintaining some meat-like elements

Focusing on the Latin American and US plant-based markets, DuPont N&B reveals that taste and texture are core elements that result in the enjoyment of meat alternative products, following a 2019 MotiveQuest analysis of 3 million internet conversations on plant-based eating in the US.

In Brazil, a total of 82% of respondents agreed with US consumers that taste, texture and appearance that mimics that of meat is important when selecting products.

Commenting on its reasoning for expanding into the plant-based and meat-alternative sphere in recent years and its investment in global and regional surveys, Pinto explained: “We identified consumer preferences and found out their favorite consumption choices and the reasons behind these purchases.”

For plant-based meat alternatives, a “glance inside the consumer mindset shows a growing tendency to go ‘green’ as the desire for healthier lifestyles drives purchases of plant-based foods and beverages”​, revealed Pinto.

Meat-alternative segment: What more needs to be done?

52% of survey respondents from a 2017 HealthFocus survey said that including more plant protein made them feel healthier, DuPont revealed, while 51% commented that one of the main barriers restricting them from adding more plant-based meat alternatives to their diet was the low availability of options at the places they shop.

Sharing feedback on how important is it to conduct surveys on individual marketplaces within LATAM to further understand trends and market opportunities, Pinto relayed that “it’s essential — makes all the difference”​. Pinto went on: “Each country has its own particularity and it is very important to understand local need and differentiation.”

Looking at data gathering plans moving forward into 2020 and beyond, Pinto confirmed: “We want to keep identifying consumer preferences and their favorite consumption choices and the reasons behind these purchases. Then we can address the market gaps.”

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