Market & Trends

Survey Uncovers Satisfaction Gap Between Vegetarians and Vegans in Plant-Based Foods

Recent research commissioned by Ingredient Communications and conducted by SurveyGoo has uncovered a significant decline in satisfaction among vegetarians regarding available food products. The survey, conducted online with 1,000 participants from the USA and UK, reveals a drop in net satisfaction rates for vegetarians, in contrast to a rising satisfaction among vegans.

In 2018, the net satisfaction rate among vegetarians stood at +47%. However, this figure has now dropped to just +8%. The US market shows an even more prominent decline, with vegetarian satisfaction dropping from +38% to -10%, a negative swing of 48%. The UK market follows a similar trend, witnessing a 35% negative swing from +55% to +20%.

“In the rush to go 100% plant-based, have brands and retailers neglected the needs of vegetarians?”

Richard Clarke, managing director of Ingredient Communications, notes, “High levels of dissatisfaction and declining net satisfaction rates among vegetarians indicate a concerning trend. Fewer vegetarians find plant-based meat and dairy products appealing, which could explain the lower net satisfaction levels among these consumers.”

© V-Label

Rising vegan satisfaction

Conversely, vegan satisfaction rates have seen an upward trajectory. Overall, vegan net satisfaction increased from +2% in 2018 to +17% today. In the US, it has improved from -9% to -3%, while in the UK, it remains high at +25%, only a slight decrease from +28% five years earlier.

The SurveyGoo poll also sheds light on the differing perceptions of plant-based products between vegans and vegetarians. A significant 95% of vegan respondents found plant-based meat products appealing, as opposed to 56% of vegetarians. Similarly, alt-dairy products appealed to 91% of vegans but only 60% of vegetarians.

So why might this be?

Clarke raises the question: “In the rush to go 100% plant-based, have brands and retailers neglected the needs of vegetarians, who are usually happy to eat dairy and egg ingredients? If so, are more hybrid products the answer?”

Taste as a key strategy

The focus on improving taste has become a key strategy for numerous plant-based brands. The founder and CEO of Beyond Meat recently spoke to the “true north” or mission of the company, which is providing plant-based meat that is indistinguishable from animal protein, which has driven the development of new product formulations, such as for Beyond Sausage and the Beyond Smashable Burger.

A recent study from polling institute YouGov measured taste as the top consideration for consumers when deciding what to eat. Another survey conducted by Bryant Research revealed that 66% of people feel that plant-based alternatives do not match the taste of conventional meat, with a further 51% stating that taste and texture were the biggest reasons that they decided to reduce their consumption of meat alternatives.

Beyond Meat Smashable Burger
Smash burger © Beyond Meat

However, others see another path forward in plant-based food adoption. In a vegconomist opinion piece, prominent industry figure Miyoko Schinner stresses the need for innovation rather than mere imitation of animal-based products. “Perhaps we’ve just been targeting the wrong audience with the wrong products,” Miyoko suggests. “What would early adopters want to eat, and what are the reasons we can give them to want to try? Food is both personal and emotional, and a product in the absence of an emotional or cultural tie generally won’t resonate.”

The motivations behind vegetarians’ and vegans’ food choices can differ. While vegans often prioritize ethical and environmental concerns, vegetarians may focus more on taste, health, and personal preferences. “In any case, the findings of our survey reinforce the golden rule of food manufacturing: that it’s essential to use the very best ingredients to deliver an excellent eating experience. The days have long gone when vegans and veggies were simply grateful to have something – anything – they could eat,” Clarke concludes.

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