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Research reveals the rise of plant-based eating in NZ

New research on consumer dietary attitudes and behaviours has revealed that one-in-three New Zealanders (34%) are now reducing their meat consumption or eating no meat at all.

This significant swath of New Zealand includes a range of diet types based on levels of meat consumption, as observed in a new report released today by Food Frontier and Life Health Foods, Hungry for Plant-Based: New Zealand Consumer Insights.

The research found that 31 percent of New Zealanders are Flexitarian or Meat-Reducers, meaning they’re actively limiting their consumption of meat, and a further three percent of New Zealanders are Vegetarian or Vegan, eating no meat at all.

Not-for-profit think tank and industry accelerator for alternative proteins Food Frontier joined forces with Australasia’s largest vegetarian food manufacturer, Life Health Foods to commission leading market research agency Colmar Brunton to conduct the nationally representative study, taking a close look at meat consumption and consumer interest in plant-based meat alternatives.

The study of 1,107 showed that New Zealanders have reduced their meat consumption over the past year, with an 18 percent increase in those whose diets were categorised as Flexitarian (defined as eating meat one to four times per week). This group is led by Generation X, whereas Meat-Reducers (defined as eating less meat in the last year) are most likely to be baby boomers.

Kiwis seeking to eat less meat named health as the number one reason to do so, citing top reasons as ‘my overall health’, ‘to reduce chances of heart disease and stroke’ and ‘to limit cancer risk’. This shows well-publicised messages around the benefits of meat reduction from leading global health authorities such as the World Health Organisation and World Cancer Research Fund are making an impact.

The environment, animal welfare, cost and the increasing variety of plant-based options available closely followed health as the other most important reasons to reduce meat consumption. With New Zealanders re-evaluating their level of meat consumption for these reasons, rather than changing taste or culinary preferences, demand has increased for plant-based alternatives in formats akin to conventional meat products.

Thomas King, Food Frontier CEO said, “As more Kiwis reduce their meat intake for their health and the planet, many are seeking out tasty and nutritious alternatives to their favourite foods.

“In turn, retailers and food businesses are working hard to deliver new and improved meat alternatives, so people don’t have to compromise to find convenient and familiar foods, like mince and meatballs, that address their growing health, environmental or ethical concerns.”

Plant-based meat alternatives have evolved from traditional options like lentil-based veggie burgers to a new generation of products that aim to mimic the sensory experience of the meat most New Zealanders grew up enjoying. Along with retailers rapidly expanding this category in a rush to meet consumer demand comes varied product quality, and respondents indicated this in naming taste as a barrier to trying plant-based meat alternatives. Nutrition and price were also listed as common barriers.

International Marketing Manager of Life Health Foods Mark Roper noted, “The surge in interest in plant-based foods has been well-documented but understanding specifically what Kiwis are looking for and concerned about helps plant-based food suppliers better cater to people’s needs.”

Kings comments, “It’s clear that food businesses must do more to ensure that consumers’ nutritional expectations are met, such as protein content and key micronutrients, and the benefits are communicated – especially considering plant-based meat products often contain more protein, less saturated fat, no cholesterol and the added benefit of fibre. They must do this while also delivering on both accessible pricing and the delicious tastes consumers are seeking.”

With many plant-based meat alternatives on grocery shelves and new and higher quality offerings rolling out across retail and foodservice regularly, Kiwis now have a plethora of plant-based options whether eating at home or on the go.

The study also sought to determine whether this rapid increase of new plant-based meat products was causing consumer confusion at the grocery store. For the vast majority of New Zealanders, the answer was no – in fact, 94 percent said they’d never mistakenly purchased a plant-based product thinking it was its conventional meat counterpart, or vice versa.

“Make no mistake, consumers are actively seeking out plant-based alternatives, they’re not being duped into purchasing these products. Terms such as ‘sausage’ or ‘burger’ support consumers in understanding the product’s intended use, coupled with qualifiers like ‘plant-based’ that indicate what it’s made of,” said King.

As for the other six percent who’d made a shopping mistake, they were more likely to be a Vegetarian or Vegan.

While only one-in-five New Zealanders have tried ‘new generation’ plant-based meat alternatives, a further 44 percent of people expressed that they’d like to try them, including half (49%) of Meat-Reducers.

Roper comments “In the past, taste has been a huge barrier for Kiwis looking to reduce their meat consumption. In response to the growing appetite for plant-based products and the opportunity to reach the more than two million Kiwis who are interested in trying plant-based alternatives, this month we are launching a new range of 100% plant-based meat alternatives into supermarkets. The new range - Alternative Meat Co. mimics meat at a sensory level and the sausage and burger products taste ‘beefy’. This provides the consumer with all of the satisfaction of meat but with the added nutritional benefits of being plant-based.”

The new Alternative Meat Co. range has joined Life Health Food’s other loved vegetarian products, including The Alternative Dairy Co, Bean Supreme, and Lisa’s and Naked Cuisine.

“There are many benefits of plant-based eating, and this new understanding of what’s motivating Kiwis to choose plant-based foods more often, helps us continue delivering the right great-tasting, price-accessible and nutritious options to all groups, from Meat-Reducers to Vegans,” says Roper.

King added, “Ultimately, plant-based meat alternatives offer New Zealanders another option for their centre-of-plate protein and an easy solution for those seeking to eat less meat.”

For further insights from the study, download Hungry for Plant-Based: New Zealand Consumer Insights at FoodFrontier.org/reports.

© Scoop Media

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