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Five trends that will take plant-based eating mainstream in 2023

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Authored by Fatma Tek, Maxim Yermolayev

Nutrition Strategy Director, Maxim Yermolayev and Ice Cream Innovation Lead, Fatma Tek share their expert insights into five consumer behaviours and food trends that will see more people making plant-based eating part of their daily diet in 2023.

Woman browsing the fruit and veg in a supermarket

This year, one person signed up every 2.4 seconds on the first day of January to eat plant-based food for 31 days. Of those that complete the annual Veganuary challenge, 36% will remain vegan, but the majority who won’t also say they plan to reduce their meat in-take by more than 50% in the long term.

“One in four people now identify as flexitarian,” says Unilever’s Ice Cream Innovation Lead, Fatma Tek.

Plant-based is a sweet spot between many trends... it's good for people's health and it's good for the planet

Nutrition Strategy Director, Maxim Yermolayev

“Only one in ten of us eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables. Almost 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the meat and dairy industries. Eating plant-based is good for people’s health and it’s good for the planet,” he says.

The great unlock is finding those trends and behaviour tipping points that will make it mainstream.

Here are five trends that Maxim and Fatma believe will put more plants on plates in 2023.

  1. Hassle-free plant-based solutions

    Marley Spoon vegan meal kit box with all the veg and Vegetarian Butcher products to make a vegan meal from scratch

    “Convenience is king,” says Maxim. People want meat-free meal options that are flavourful and fuss free. Expect to see…

    • Everyday inspiration for easy plant-based meals. As well as finding plant-based recipes on Knorr product packs and Recipedia and in The Vegetarian Butcher cookbook, consumers can search Hellmann’s site, part of which is dedicated to recreating meals that have gone viral on TikTok. They can even cook along with Knorr’s award winning TikTok campaign which saw German musicians sing recipes to encourage younger consumers to ‘Eat more Veggies’.
    • More veggie options in recipe box subscriptions and meal kits. The global market for meal kits is growing almost 15% and, with it, the number of consumers actively ordering boxes with more vegetarian/vegan meals. The Vegetarian Butcher partnered with meal-kit provider Marley Spoon in several European markets to create a special ‘vegan only’ box to showcase the variety of recipes that could be cooked from scratch using plant-based meat, with none of the sacrifice.
    • Plant-based prompts at the till in e-grocery/quick commerce. E-grocery shopping is expected to account for more than 20% of the market 2030, driven by the substantial expansion of instant delivery. “Last year, we learnt that vegan and non-dairy products are almost three times more relevant in our virtual ice cream stores,” says Fatma. “By offering vegan meal deals in our food chains, to full vegan bundles in virtual stores and quick commerce channels, our ice cream quick delivery service (Ice Cream NOW), is also prompting consumers to consider adding non-dairy options to their shop at the checkout.”
  2. Climate considerations influencing purchase decisions

    Detail of two mobile phone screens detailing the impact you can make by switching to eating plant-based meat powered by The Vegetarian Butcher

    Consumers are increasingly aware of the food system’s climate impact and are making that part of their purchasing decision. Expect to see…

    • Clean labels and ingredient transparency. Global and local brands will look to offer full transparency on which ingredients are used and why. You can see this demonstrated globally by The Vegetarian Butcher and locally in the Netherlands in Unox’s new range of plant-based soups called ‘Goedgevuld’ (meaning ‘well filled’).
    • Brands communicating the climate impact of plant-based choices. In 2022, The Vegetarian Butcher was named Most Sustainable Brand by the Sustainable Brand Index (Europe’s largest independent brand study on sustainability) for the way it communicates its mission and impact. This included an impact report. It also developed an ‘impact calculator’ that allows consumers to calculate their own positive impact when they adopt plant-based in place of animal meat.
  3. Innovative flavours and formats

    Magnum vegan raspberry ice cream against an illustrated leaf background   [5:52 PM] Shaw, Olivia That too long?

    50%of flexitarians want to keep up with the latest food trends. Source: Insites Consulting

    According to research by Insites Consulting, 50% of flexitarians want to keep up with the latest food trends. “The interesting thing is how they see their diets,” says Fatma. “They don’t view it as cutting down. It’s more about exploration and trying new things.​

    For us that’s a rallying call to keep launching indulgent, plant-based ice creams with high-quality ingredients and exciting flavours.” Expect to see…

    • Fruit-forward and nutty flavours in ice creams. “Our non-dairy competitors may be playing in the chocolate, caramel and nut flavour space, but Magnum are there already and have awards from organisations such as PETA that recognise our ingredient and flavour expertise,” says Fatma. “Our Magnum team knew they had their work cut out to continue to delight our customers. Most products undergo around three taste tests, but for plant-based products we conduct more than 30 to ensure the best-performing indulgent taste for products such as this year’s vegan innovation, Magnum Vegan Raspberry Swirl.”
    • Mini formats that provide permissable indulgence. Consumers still want indulgence, but they like help with moderation. "In Ice Cream, ‘minification’ is one of our key priorities," says Fatma. “It ranges from Magnum Vegan Minis which were our hero launch in Veganuary 2022 to Wall’s Mini Bites which offer people more occasions to enjoy an ice cream as a snack-size format.”
    • Products with ‘hidden’ veg such as wraps and pastas. “Knorr’s carrot and spinach wraps contain micro and macro nutrients and make a great base for a meat or bean burrito. And the brand’s colourful spinach and tomato pastas look great on a plate and deliver a hidden veg hit too,” says Maxim. “The Vegetarian Butcher will continue to create innovative formats such as its recently launched vegan chicken breast called Impeckable that provides the juiciness and texture of chicken breast but is fully plant-based.”
  4. Exciting out-of-home options

    Spændende muligheder udenfor hjemmet

    “Food trends are born in restaurants. It’s where consumers try new food, cuisines, and flavours,” says Maxim. Expect to see…

    • Professional kitchens expanding plant-based menus. Last year ice cream brand Carte D’Or developed a vegan dessert range to help kitchens cater for the increase in consumers choosing to eat plant-based. Desserts such as its chocolate mousse power mix was reformulated to give chefs the freedom to mix it with oat or soy milk without compromising on taste or texture.
    • Increased choice in quick service restaurants. In Belgium, one in three Whoppers bought in Burger King is plant-based and powered by The Vegetarian Butcher. And the brand’s partnership with Burger King has grown and been scaled up with demand. This has seen four plant-based meat patty and nugget products used by Burger King to create different builds of its Whopper, Junior Whopper, Chicken Royale and Nuggets across different markets.
  5. Favourite brands offered in plant-based choices

    Three tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and Tony Chocolony’s ice cream in plant-based and dairy formats

    Increasingly, consumers expect to be to be offered dairy and non-dairy options as a given, so their focus is on… flavours, product experience and indulgence.

    Fatma Tek, Ice Cream Innovation Lead

    Worldwide, 42% of consumers think most people will be eating plant-based foods instead of meat in the next decade. Expect to see…

    • Plant and non-plant options launching in tandem. “In the past, if we were launching a dairy and non-diary variant of an ice cream, the team would create a separate campaign for each. Now it feels natural to launch them together,” says Fatma. “The launch of Ben & Jerry’s campaign for its new sundaes in Europe and the products launched in partnership with Tony Chocolonely used this approach. Increasingly, consumers expect to be to be offered dairy and non-dairy options as a given, so their focus is on what they have always loved and looked for in our ice creams – flavours, product experience and indulgence.”

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