Plant-Based Trends: Part 3, Meat Alternatives

July 29, 2020
Trends Indulgence Plant-Based
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With a 90% increase in sales compared to last year, plant-based foods have been a much sought-after alternative for consumers as they look to amplify their health and find balance in their diet. We’ve mentioned these trends in our Plant-Based Part 1 and Part 2 reports where we discussed consumer interest in health and wellness focused and indulgence focused plant-based alternatives. Today, we’re talking plant-based meat and protein alternatives. Thriving in popularity, plant-based protein options go far beyond veggie burgers. Let’s take a look at what’s trending in plant-based protein and meat alternatives from consumer interest, product and menu introductions and more.

On the Rise

Popularity in Plant-Based Eating

As mentioned in our recent Fast Facts, Sales of plant-based foods have considerably outpaced total foods sales in the US, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and SPINS. Plant-based food sales spiked 90% (compared to last year) at the height of pandemic buying, which is 25% higher than total food sales.

Social Listening for "plant-based & protein" Search

Top Hashtags: #vegan, #plantbased, #plantbasedprotein, #healthlifestyle, #vegetarian

Plant-based Protein Alternatives: soy, lentils, jackfruit, tofu, chickpeas, edamame, beans, tempeh, quinoa, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, nuts

Products of Note:

Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods Awesome Grounds Plant Based Protein offers 16 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving is sold in in a 12-oz. pack. 35 percent of consumers in a Mintel GNPD panel said they likely or definitely would buy this product, outperforming its subcategory.

Beyond Meat has relaunched its Beyond Sausage Hot Italian Plant-Based Sausages with a new meatier formula and a new package design.

Top Flavors

Fastest Growing Flavors Globally

Q1 2019 vs Q1 2020

  • Spice/Spicy +650.00%

  • Herbs/Herbal +500.00%

  • Bean (Black) +300.00%

  • Carrot +266.67%

  • Quinoa +140.00%

  • Bean +100.00%

Top Flavors Globally

  • Unflavored/Plain

  • Vegetable

  • Smoke

  • Spice/Spicy

  • Mushroom

  • Beetroot/Beet

  • Barbeque/BBQ/Barbacoa

  • Curry

  • Broccoli

  • Peppers/ Bell Peppers

On the Menu

Restaurant chefs and operators have been getting creative with craveworthy alt-meat menu items, too. Meat substitutes in particular have experienced strong overall growth in retail and dining, while incidences of plant-based proteins on menus have increased as well (Q1 2017-Q1 2020). This growth provides opportunity for food operators and developers to find success in offering meatless options from plant-based burgers and beyond.

Menu Mentions

  • The Bac'n Cheeze Burger at Arlo's in Austin, Texas, is a house-made plant-based burger topped with seitan bacon and plant-based mac and “cheeze.”

  • The Chick'n Fried Chick'n at The Southern V in Nashville is made with crispy seiten covered in mushroom gravy.

  • In a pilot test last year, KFC quick-service restaurants sold out of plant-based chicken nuggets and boneless wings in a matter of hours.

MEAT SUBSTITUTES INGREDIENT: +51% menu incidence Q1 2017-Q1 2020 (# menu mentions) - Mintel
“Consumers are most likely to cite health as their primary motivation for eating plant-based proteins, yet dining out is a treat. Operators must find a balance of highlighting the health benefits of plant-based proteins while also delivering on taste.” - Mintel

Center Stage Produce

For many people, the same cravings for animal proteins can be satisfied with vegetables or fruits that serve as center-of-the plate attractions.  The filet becomes the cauliflower steak. The burger becomes the portabella mushroom. The battered chicken breast becomes the breaded eggplant slice.

Foodservice Feature

  • The Smoked Cantaloupe Burger at Ducks Eatery in New York City shows the tantalizing possibilities of fruit-based protein, with cantaloupe that’s been transformed by curing, smoking, baking and searing it and pairing it with fried caramelized onion, ranch and lettuce.


Vegetable-based options also appeal to consumers as a less processed meat substitute. As consumers look for “good-for-you” products, highlighting vegetable content and featuring appealing flavors can strengthen consumer interest in meat substitutes.

  • In the US, some 61% of consumers think that whole plant foods are healthier than processed meat substitutes.- Mintel

Products of Note:

Vegable Mango Magic Tangy Mango Sauce Filled Puy Lentil Burger is said to be suitable for vegans and gluten free. The product pack includes four lentil burgers filled with a tangy mango sauce

Crafty Counter Wunder Nuggets: Made with lentils, chickpeas, cabbage, cauliflower, chia seeds and aromatic seasonings, the plant-based product provides 6 grams of protein per serving.

  • 37% of consumers said they likely or definitely would purchase this product.

Wholly Veggie Southwest Beet Veggie Patties features beets, red peppers, and black beans, providing 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving.

The Great Mashup - Meat & Poultry

The rise of the flexitarian consumer -- open to both animal and plant-based proteins – has also spurred the advent of premium protein blends in the traditional meat and poultry market.  According to the Power of Meat 202- survey from FMI, 75% of are people interested in meat and poultry blends. The ratio of meat to plant ingredient may vary, but these blends also are a way to savor the best of both worlds.

Products of Note

Raised & Rooted Patties are blended with Angus beef and plant protein, with 19 grams of protein per serving and 60% less saturated fat than an all-beef burger.

Perdue Chicken Plus Rice Breaded Chicken Breast & Vegetable Tenders are made with chickens raised with no antibiotics ever with a veggie blend of chickpeas and cauliflower. The product has 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein per serving and contains 100% natural ingredients.

  • 56% of consumers responded they would likely or definitely purchase this product.

Cracking Into a Favorite Category

Eggs are a staple ingredient in a number of indulgent dishes, from morning omelets to batters used various for griddled and baked goodies. Here, too, plant-based upstarts are making inroads as a swap for traditional eggs.

  • Sales of plant-based eggs in the U.S. have jumped 192 percent. - Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association,  March 2020

“The popularity of plant-based dieting will drive demand for egg substitutes with improved sensory qualities.”-  Mintel

Products of Note

JUST Plant-Based Scramble Egg, sold in a 12-oz. bottle, is said to scramble just like a scrambled egg yet does not contain any egg, GMO, cholesterol, dairy or gluten.

  • 14% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would purchase this product

Earth Island VeganEgg Plant-Based Egg Replacer has been recently reformulated and now contains 3 grams of soy protein. It is kosher certified and vegan and sells in a compostable package with 10 to 12 vegan eggs.

The Takeaways

It’s no doubt that growth is occurring in the plant-based space and fast. With consumers adjusting their diets as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, opportunity in good-for-you plant-based alternatives in retail and dining has soared. The key – finding balance between benefit to the consumer and desirable flavor and texture. Egg and meat alternatives to vegetable-based options that serve as a significant protein source, the opportunities for product developers in this space seem endless.

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Sources in full report