24 January 2020, 09:20 AM
  • Anna Blewett investigates the bigger picture for today's consumer
What motivates the plant-based shopper?

What motivates today and tomorrow’s plant-based shopper, as opposed to yesterday’s, is interesting to unpick. For Theadora Alexander, co-founder of start-up community Young Foodies, who’s currently engaged with helping a heap of recently launched vegan brands plus more in development, believes plant-based no longer defines itself in opposition to animal-based products. “There’s a big ‘better for the world, better for you’ lean in the brands we work with. Yes, we’re seeing more and more fake meats popping up… but also just a celebration of products that don’t need to have meat in. Look at All Plants – it’s not about creating fake meat, just celebrating plants. You can get pretty far without animal products and have foods that are just as delicious, just as good for you. The word vegan has always had connotations of ‘life with less’. This is about having more.”

“The perception with vegan products is that they’re healthier, whether or not that’s true,” adds Michael Ratheram of supplier Epicurium. “Perhaps what does tend to mark plant-based products out is the quality of ingredients – particularly with the ethical brands that we source. They’re made with wholesome, clean-label ingredients so they are healthier in that regard.”


Don’t call it a trend…
Could it be a bubble? “I think it’s not,” says Young Foodies’ Theadora. “That’d be like saying climate change is trendy. I think there’s a shift in consumer mindset that’s not going away. If you look at the stats the majority of shoppers are millennial and Gen Z, and they’re only set to become a bigger proportion of the population. Any report on what’s important to them names the environment: they live large, carry little and care about what they put their money behind. Sustainability matters to them, and we’ve all seen the stats that show the environmental impact of switching vegan for even one day a week. I think every retailer is cottoning on to the fact that if they don’t play in this market they’re missing a big trick with the future shopper.”


Brekkie rules
“Breakfast is going particularly strongly at the moment,” says Grenville Wall, consumer insight director at Kantar. “I think the reason for that is that it’s reasonably easy to make your breakfast plant-based. For the majority you just have to look for a dairy-alternative plant milk to splash on your cereal and put in your coffee.”

Buyer bottlenecks
“There are so many brands and shop owners only have so much time, so the bottle neck for startups trying to reach consumers is the buyer’s time,” says Theadora. No surprise then that 86% of startups sell via Amazon.

Down with purism
“Fray Bentos featured in PETA’s recent vegan awards,” points out Michael. “If a ‘meat brand’ like that can make inroads into vegans it goes to show any old perceptions of vegan have gone.”

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