Fresh Meat, Plant-Based Alternatives Gaining in Popularity

Although 81 percent of Millennials, 74 percent of Gen Xers, 66 percent of Boomers and 50 percent of Silents believe protein content is extremely or very influential when making grocery store purchases, the various age groups view protein differently, according to sales and marketing agency Acosta’s 2018 “Progressing Protein Palates” report.

While the older generations are more concerned with the health benefits of protein, younger consumers care about exercise recovery and feeling full, the research found.

“Our research shows that protein continues to be a mainstay in shopping baskets, but the kind of proteins shoppers are buying is evolving,” noted Colin Stewart, SVP, insights at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta. “Plant-based meat alternative sales are booming and popular with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Another trend we’re seeing with protein is that shoppers are paying more attention to labels and product claims, but are overwhelmed and confused about what they mean.”

The report delves into meat- and protein-buying behaviors, including:

Fresh Meat Trends

  • 18 percent of shoppers are purchasing more fresh meat versus last year, while 12 percent are buying less, primarily because of price and striving to eat healthier, either for themselves or their families.
  • 41 percent of Millennials are buying more fresh meat versus a year ago, more than all other generations combined.
  • Beef and chicken account for 70 percent of all fresh meat sold.
  • Sales of natural/organic meat are surpassing conventional choices.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives/Alternative Diets

  • Shoppers are realizing that meat isn’t the only protein source, with plant-based meat alternatives increasing 11 percent in units year over year.
  • 71 of shoppers who buy plant-based meat alternatives also eat meat.
  • Meat-eaters are interested in alternative diets that are either less focused on meats or omit meat altogether, particularly Millennials, 26 percent of whom are vegetarian/vegan.
  • 34 percent of meat-eating Millennials eat four or more vegetarian dinners weekly.

Label Confusion/Product Claims

  • Shoppers are confused by the sheer variety of product claims, especially those related to meat products, including “humanely raised” and “free-range.”
  • Millennials expressed the most label confusion, at 58 percent, while Gen X ranked as the the most knowledgeable generation of shoppers.
  • Of shoppers who feel confused/overwhelmed, 85 percent want to have more information available to enable them to decipher claims and labels.
  • For Gen X shoppers who believe that they understand various product claims, they feel most strongly about no added hormones/antibiotics and all-natural products.

“Millennials are purchasing more fresh meat and plant-based meat alternatives than any other generation, and brands and retailers need to understand they are the key to growth in the protein arena,” said Stewart. “Another clear takeaway from this study is that more awareness needs to be built around various product claims and labeling – especially for all-natural and antibiotic-/hormone-free meat product.”

“Progressing Protein Palates” was carried out through an online survey of Acosta’s customer shopper community panel, in addition to multiple Nielsen research reports.