Ask almost anyone in the food space about the biggest trends they’re seeing, and odds are they’ll mention one thing: plant-based. From meat to dairy to eggs, plant-based alternatives to traditional animal products are becoming more and more commonplace — and tasting better and better.
Considering the ubiquity of plant-based dining, we invited a few experts to come speak about the trend at SKS 2019 earlier this month. Author and scientist Dr. PK Newby, Bjorn Oste, co-founder of Oatly, and Daniel Scharff Director of Strategy & Analytics for JUST, took the SKS 2019 stage to unpack the plant-based dining trend: who’s catalyzing it, what products they want, and why is it gaining so much popularity right now?
If you’re curious about why ‘plant-based’ has suddenly become the buzzword du jour, it’s worth watching the whole video below. Here are a few high-level takeaways from the conversation:
Health is a big driver
There are many reasons that people shift towards a plant-based or flexitarian diet: ethical concerns, environmental motivations, etc. But according to Scharff, health is another big driver. “The number one reason for dietary change isn’t weight loss,” he said. “It’s health.”
Dr. Newby echoed this idea, siting studies which showed that plant-based diets are key to longevity and chronic disease prevention — as well as the health of our planet. Since millennials are motivated by health and sustainability, she said, they’re a primary driver for the adoption of plant-based food.
It may seem like new companies (of Big Food corporations) are popping up every day promising a unique twist on plant-based foods. But according to Oste, companies can’t just slap the term “plant-based” on their products and expect to see a loyal customer base spring up overnight. “Consumers care about companies on a mission that are authentic, transparent, and value-driven,” he said. In short: You can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk, too.
Taste is king
All of our panelists agreed that, while mission and health are key, taste is still king. “Taste will always be first,” said Dr. Newby. “It’s the primary driver.” The others? Cost, followed by convenience. But the overall conclusion was no matter how sustainable, healthy, or affordable a plant-based product is, if it doesn’t taste amazing — it doesn’t have a chance.
Scarff went one step further. He said that animal product alternatives don’t only have to taste great, but also has to look, cook, and eat like the original product. “It has to replicate the experience that they’re used to,” he said, referencing consumers. That’s one of the reasons that JUST is so adamant that they sell their plant-based egg next to actual egg cartons in the grocery store.
Dr. Newby finished her talk with a bold claim. “The future is absolutely meatless,” she said. It’s too early to say if her prediction is correct, but there’s one thing we can be sure of: the plant-based revolution is here now, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
If you want to hear the full conversation, check out the video below.