While the popularity of plant-based foods has skyrocketed and multicultural consumers are major contributors to increased interest, research from Danone North America also uncovered such issues as cultural stigmas and accessibility barriers.
Danone North America, whose plant-based food and beverage offerings include products sold under the Silk and So Delicious brands, has released new research on the relationship between multicultural audiences and plant-based products. According to “At the Table: The Multicultural Plant-Based Food Perspective,” plant-based eating is on the rise among multicultural consumers, particularly the younger Millennial and Gen Z demographics. However, while the popularity of plant-based foods has skyrocketed and multicultural consumers are major contributors to this increased interest, the research also uncovered such issues as cultural stigmas and accessibility barriers.
“Plant-based eating has the potential to be a real beacon of healthy living, especially for diverse communities,” noted John Starkey, president of plant-based food and beverage for White Plains, N.Y.-based Danone North America. “To hear that multicultural audiences are more willing to add plant-based foods into their diets was personally inspiring and affirming to me, as my family and many friends have adopted flexitarian lifestyles over the last few years. With this research and the breadth of our product portfolio, the ability to help move Danone North America and the plant-based industry forward is one of the biggest reasons why I joined the company. We’ve made a conscious effort to be more inclusive and reach underrepresented communities, particularly through our Silk and So Delicious brands, which have a long legacy in the plant-based space. Yet there is still a lot of work to be done in understanding how different communities are experiencing plant-based food and beverages and how we can do more to engage and appeal to multicultural consumers, from our innovation choices and marketing efforts to our community impact work and sustainability strategies.”
Key findings from the research include the following:
Multicultural consumers are more willing than the total population to add plant-based foods into their diets as a substitution for animal products, with younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers leading the charge. 71% of Asian Americans, 55% of Black/African Americans and 61% of Hispanic/Latino respondents said that they “strongly” or “somewhat agree” that they are open to swapping out the current foods they eat for plant-based alternatives, versus less than half of total population respondents (49%).
Almost three-quarters of multicultural respondents (73%) said that they “strongly or somewhat agree” that they try to be environmentally friendly with their food choices but sometimes don’t have the information they need.
Although multicultural shoppers make up an increasing share of the plant-based market, overall, they feel less represented and less engaged by plant-based food brands. More than half of (55%) respondents said that their community and culture are “not that well” or “not at all” represented by plant-based food companies and brands, including 58% of Hispanic/Latino, 52% of Asian Americans, and 60% African American/Black respondents. The numbers were even higher among the Gen X and Baby Boomer groups within those communities.
More than half of Hispanic/Latino (56%) and Black/African American (51%) respondents said that they “strongly” or “somewhat agree” that their culture stigmatizes people who eat plant-based foods.
Multicultural respondents believe that some healthier or more nutritious foods are less attainable because of affordability and accessibility barriers, with 48% of Asian Americans, 42% of Hispanic/Latino and 40% Black/African Americans saying that they perceive plant-based foods as being more expensive.
“At the Table: The Multicultural Plant-Based Food Perspective”further revealed that multicultural consumers believe plant-based eating is healthy and nutritious, better for the environment, and more ethical. However, these shoppers want more plant-based companies and brands to engage with them in a deeper, more meaningful way, not just through marketing efforts, but also through ingredient choices, education and sustainability work.
In response to this research, Danone North America is looking to take further action in 2022 by expanding its inclusive marketing and customer efforts through new internal and external partnerships encompassing sales and marketing, nutrition and innovation.
“At Danone North America, we believe making progress toward a more inclusive, just and diverse culture is an essential part of using our business as a force for good,” said Terrance Irizarry, the company’s head of inclusive diversity. “Our commitments to inclusive diversity are put into action through a strategy that focuses on four major areas – our people, the marketplace, community engagement, and advocacy, for a number of topics that demonstrate our support for racial equity and social justice. Marketing efforts for our portfolio should reflect the diversity of our consumers and society — and also reach those consumers meaningfully. Conducting this important research on behalf of our plant-based portfolio is a huge step forward in listening, learning and ultimately taking action. It’s also part of our larger journey and work toward enhancing the overall diversity in our content and our partnerships with diverse suppliers in the industry.”
Initiatives already undertaken by the company include the following Silk and So Delicious initiatives: a focus on diverse talent and influencer marketing efforts, financial support for major African American and Asian American foundations, and advocating for the social and economic empowerment of farming partners across the supply chain.
In partnership with global integrated communications agency Zeno Group, Danone North America fielded an online survey of 4,027 adults in the United States, including Asian Americans, Black/African Americans, and Hispanic/Latino communities, between April 27 and May 19. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.