Plant-based eating is trending, and the number of Kiwis taking a unique approach to meat eating has skyrocketed. Many brands are responding to the call for meatless alternatives to fit in with people’s new culinary requirements.  But others are asking, is this an industry worth tapping into?

The Numbers

New Zealander’s shift to plant-based eating is multi-layered and includes various levels of commitment to the diet. Vegetarianism and veganism are the most commonly known diets which focus on plant-based alternatives, and there is a number of Kiwi’s jumping in on this movement. According to Google Trends, New Zealand has the third highest interest in vegetarianism, coming behind Australia and Israel. This interest has led to a change in habits, as indicated in a report from Better Futures. The report stated that one in ten Kiwi’s were either vegetarian or mostly-meat-free. These figures suggest that there is, in fact, a substantial market for plant-based products, and brands wanting to capture this niche should be jumping on the call, rather than turning up their noses.

The Variants

While vegetarians and vegans are the most well publicised plant-based consumers, there is a growing trend towards partial elimination of meat. This trend is based on portions, with many choosing to have specific days of the week dedicated to meat eating, while during the rest of the week opting for vegetarian meals or the elimination of particular meats from their diet altogether.

Flexitarians are used to describe those who abide by a majority plant-based diet but eat meat on occasion. While pescatarian describes those who will eat seafood, and potentially chicken, but avoid all other meat products.

The Brands

The plant-based trend is being met with enthusiasm by many companies, who have responded by launching plant-based alternatives for these consumers. The Craft Meat Co. has launched a no-meat-mince, which incorporates mushrooms, almonds, onion and beetroot to create a plant-based alternative. Funky Fields is another brand that has embraced plant-based mince. It contains 18 percent protein, 10 percent fat and is 100 percent meat-free. Both products have amassed thousands of followers across their social media accounts.

The Backlash

While there is a market for plant-based alternatives to meat products, there has been an intense international backlash against the movement. So much so that a law was passed in Missouri which prohibits the use of the word ‘meat’ on vegan alternatives. Consumer confusion or intentional misrepresentation of a product was cited as the reason for the bills passing. Funky Fields has its plant-based product titled as ‘Minced’. However, the brand has openly defended its choice of wording on its consumer site. “We have named the new product Minced because it’s minced, and to clearly show the consumers that the product can be used in all dishes where minced beef is usually used.

Our focus is on the use of the product. We don’t quite understand why animals should have a monopoly on the definition of meat. From our perspective, the definition of meat is more about the texture.”

The Future

With a mixture of embrace and backlash from consumers, suppliers may feel uncertain as to the validity of this trend, and whether or not it is worth investing in. However new research carried out by the vegetation brand Bean Supreme indicated that this craze is not going anywhere. 21 percent of Kiwis surveyed reported that they purposefully choose to go meat-free for over half of their weekly meals. The reason for this exclusion was varied, with 40 percent of participants citing health concerns while 28 percent referred to their ethical beliefs.

Various food publications have named plant-based or vegetarianism as one of the fastest growing trends of the next few years including Just Eat and Grub Hub. This is supported by the ever-increasing number of plant-based eaters around the world. A report by Mintel showed the number of people identifying as vegans in Australia increased by 92 percent between 2014 and 2016 and has only continued to grow.