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By 2029, the plant-based meat market is expected to grow by more than 11% to $12 billion. And hardly a day goes by without the food industry coming up with a new animal-protein-free alternative. However, the success of this market may not be quite what you think.

(Related: Plant-based meat company Green Rebel makes a mean beefless rendang)

Boomers are least attracted to plant-based food

A recent Food Industry Association report compiled jointly with data firm NielsenIQ reveals the demographics behind interest in plant-based foods. Typically referred to as “boomers”, consumers born after World War II and up to 1965 are least attracted to plant-based food. Gen Z and millennials are the profiles most likely to buy plant-based meat. However, this does not mean that soy burgers and almond milk are now part of people’s regular buying habits. In contrast, only half of the consumers questioned by this report said they were open to experiencing these new foods. In the end, those who eat them regularly represent only 12% of consumers. Some 17% say they eat them occasionally.

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Taste matters more than health benefits

While plant-based meat alternatives are the perfect allies for avoiding animal protein when following a vegan diet, people usually choose these kinds of products primarily for health reasons. The majority of consumers — in the United States, at least — choose this type of food to maintain their nutritional well-being. These plant-based meat alternatives are only associated with the vegetarian or vegan movements in a secondary sense. In fact, their consumption saw a boost at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, when healthy eating became more prevalent, the report states. Some 31% of consumers preferred to buy products with increased focus on their overall health. Meanwhile, 27% of respondents decided to choose carefully what they bought to pay attention to their cardiac health, and 31% were looking for nutritious solutions rich in fiber. More surprisingly, the taste criterion outweighed all others, including health.

(Related: Nutrient-dense plant-based meat substitutes are the way to Singapore’s food security)

There’s more to plant-based foods than soy patties

Meat substitutes have made the plant-based meat category more popular — and the worldwide success of products from giants like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat has a lot to do with this. However, this is not the offer that appeals the most. “More than 40% of shoppers at least occasionally eat a meat, dairy or seafood alternative, but dairy alternative sales are more than twice those of meat alternatives,” says Steve Markenson, director of research and insights for FMI. “The plant-based foods most likely to be regularly consumed by shoppers are naturally plant-based — fruits and vegetables (75%) and beans, nuts, or grains (47%).”

(Related: Singapore’s love for plant-based meat still strong)

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