Market & Trends

Why it’s Imperative for Meat-Free Products in Canada to Target Meat-Eaters

A recent survey conducted by food services management company Sodexo Canada finds that while a huge proportion (74%) of Canadians are unwilling to completely give up meat — significantly higher than the global average of 42% — followed by 67% for fish and 54% for dairy, almost half (46%) are interested in reducing animal proteins for plant proteins and 46% are willing to reduce their intake of dairy products.

Ultimately, this data as well as the further data below evidences that Canadian consumers refuse to quit animal products but do have a desire to replace some meat and dairy with animal-free alternatives. Producers and marketers should therefore strive to make this easy for the consumer and target the flexitarian group with inclusive language and marketing.

Disparity: aspirations vs real-world behaviors

Carried out in collaboration with market research company Leger, the Sodexo study reveals significant insights into the sustainable food habits and intentions of Canadians, highlighting the role of flexitarians as a major force in driving change in food consumption patterns.

The survey, which polled over 1,500 Canadians, indicates a disparity between Canadians’ aspirations for sustainable eating and their actual behaviors. Nearly all the Canadians surveyed recognize the critical need to adopt sustainable practices but cited financial challenges and entrenched eating habits as major barriers. 

Sodexo Canada
© Sodexo Canada

Key findings 

High awareness but limited action: While 87% of Canadians acknowledge the urgency of adopting sustainable behaviors, a significant majority are not ready to give up meat (74%), fish (67%), or dairy (54%). This reluctance is substantially higher than the global average, with those unwilling to give up meat at 42% and fish at 45%. 

Flexitarians leading the change: Flexitarian diets are emerging as a significant driver in Canada, with 46% of Canadians reporting their willingness to reduce consumption of meat and dairy.

Individual benefits over collective good: The primary motivation for Canadians to adopt more sustainable eating habits is personal health benefits (52%), followed by financial savings (49%). This trend aligns with global patterns but highlights a lesser focus on the ethical and environmental implications of food choices, and instead on reducing meat consumption for health and cost benefits. 

Wamame Foods X StrEATS©StrEATS Kitchen

Further evidence

Similar data has been reported in other studies, with recent research from Chefs Plate finding that 15% of Canadians are flexitarian. In comparison, only 2% would consider themselves vegan, with 43% of the people surveyed saying their diet choice was influenced by food cost, as reported by New Food Magazine.

The Ontario Produce Marketing Association also presented consumer insights from Mintel, finding that 25% of Canadians reported being flexitarian and motivated to reduce meat consumption for health reasons. Meanwhile, only 2% were vegan, motivated by ethical and environmental reasons.

The survey’s findings provide urgent implications for the marketing of plant-based products in Canada. With a growing flexitarian demographic who are motivated by health, taste, and price over ethical or environmental considerations, it is crucial for businesses to align their marketing strategies accordingly.

© Konscious Foods

Canadian market

Alternative food producers currently active in the Canadian market include Konscious Foods, Nature’s Fynd, Wamame Foods, NotCo, Komo, Oatly, Plant Up, Gardein, Daiya Foods, and Beyond Meat, among many others.

Worth noting in this context is that, last November, Protein Industries Canada announced a significant investment of $11.4M in the advancement of novel food options for Canadian consumers, in which the companies New School Foods, Liven Proteins, and NuWave Research will collaborate to develop and commercialize an innovative plant-based whole-muscle salmon product.

Since its inception in 2018, Protein Industries Canada has channeled investments nearing half a billion dollars into innovative initiatives around plant-based food and ingredients. “Our government is pleased to see the Protein Industries Cluster and its project partners build on the success of this truly Canadian innovative solution,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “These new technologies will support the increased production of a high-quality plant-based salmon fillet alternative, expanding sustainable and nutritious options available to Canadians and helping meet domestic and global demands.”

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