By RONAN MOLONEY, VP & GM of Food and Meat, Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa
Highlight delicious appeal of plant-based
Plant-based foods are mainly seen as better for health. There is little emotional connection with it. This, however, can be an opportunity to innovate products around positive emotions and language associated with meat products.
Instead of highlighting the absence of meat such as ‘meat-free’ or 'alternative', use language that trigger a sensory response: 'delicious', 'juicy', 'succulent', 'sizzling'. That is likelier to attract consumers. Current plant-based foods tend to focus on burgers and sausages, try offering new types of plant-based foods, perhaps around local favourites, to expand choices. Particularly as consumers become more adventurous , exciting, novel plant-based dishes will be a delightful and easy introduction to plant-based foods.
Plant-based must taste like meat
Taste is the number one reason why consumers choose a food and beverage product. According to Kerry's meat alternative study, 37% of consumers in Asia Pacific, Middle East expect meat alternatives to taste like actual meat, while 20% expect similar texture.
However, taste has traditionally been a challenge in the plant-based category: 47% of consumers say that current meat alternative products lack that meaty flavour, and 45% say they don’t match the texture of real meat. However, they will consider buying if taste and texture were no issues.
How to balance between providing nutrition and great taste? Include chefs, flavourists and sensory scientists in the innovation cycle can help brands offer plant-based products consumers enjoy.
Offer more vegetable protein options
While consumers are turning to meat alternatives for wholesome nutrition, specific reasons vary. For some, it's to improve health issues. For example, chronic ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure are prompting more people in the Philippines to consider a plant-based diet.
The most popular choice for plant-based meat alternatives is soy. North America aside, soy is the top plant protein globally — 65% of new launches in Asia had soy as the main ingredient as well as 40% of those in the Middle East and North Africa.
In addition, an Innova Market Insights report on plant-based trends showed that a high percentage of new meat substitute products in the Middle East and Africa had protein claims, going from 0% in 2019 to over 60% in 2020. As diets change, it's important to keep sustainability impact in mind and diversify protein bases by providing a sustainable balance of different vegetable protein sources – such as pea, seitan and lupin – to create broader appeal.
In pursuit of better nutrition and wellbeing, consumers look for clean labels that list recognisable ingredients, and transparent sourcing, to make more informed food choices. Unfortunately, many plant-based products fail to meet the mark. Alternative meat products are often highly engineered, with long lists of ingredients and high sodium levels to compensate for poor protein quality and to mimic the taste of meat.
The practice of highlighting how ingredients can support good health in the meat alternative category is also low. As health is a key factor prompting people to choose meat alternatives, promoting these benefits− high in protein, heart-healthy soy − could boost category growth.
Keep price points affordable and make plant-based products easy to find
Alternative proteins are often perceived to be less affordable than animal proteins. Convenience is also a concern, consumers may not know where to buy these products or whether they will be easy to cook.
In Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, 70% of consumers believe that the current price of meat alternatives is too high but would buy them if they were more affordable or the same cost or cheaper than animal proteins. Indonesia and Thailand are key markets where 81% of respondents felt that plant-based products were expensive. What this implies is that meat alternatives become one-off purchases.
In addition, 66% believe that meat alternatives are not readily available nor easily found in the supermarket. Consumers expect them to be found in the chilled section as these are considered to be fresher than frozen food products.
Take the hassle out of cooking plant-based at home
With more consumers trying to make healthier, non-meat dishes at home, they want products that are quick to prepare. However, 50% of respondents say cooking plant-based dishes is a hassle, with 47% admitting they don’t have the time to do so. What’s more, many say their home-cooked plant-based dish doesn’t have the same taste or quality of those served in restaurants or available in retail.
To make it easier for home cooks, brands can produce plant-based cuisine with local tastes consumers are familiar with, and in different formats — including pre-planned, pre-prepped meals that help save time and prevent confusion.
Download our Radicle by Kerry guide to get tips and insights on creating irresistible plant-based foods consumers prefer.
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