Consumer Intelligence for Plant-Based Market Innovation

Kimberly Surico |
 08/28/20 |
5 min read

Consumer Intelligence for Plant-Based Market Innovation

The plant-based market is booming, and consumer intelligence is brands’ ticket to ride. Consumers attracted to the plant-based lifestyle have lots of questions that need answering. And savvy brands up to date on their consumer intelligence stand to reap rewards for their plant-based market innovations.

We’ll explore what that looks like for brands with insight into:

  • Consumers’ plant-based infatuation.
  • Major brands that are dominating the conversation.
  • Plant-based innovation by investments and patents.

And here are a few plant-based stats to chew on as we get going:

  • 58% of consumers feel that a plant-based diet is better for the environment than one that includes animal products.
  • The global meat substitute market stood at over $11B in 2019 and is projected to top $30B by 2026.
  • Of Americans who have tried plant-based meat alternatives, 6 out of 10 said that they’d continue eating them.

Consumers Enjoy Eating Plants

Consumer health interests are fueling the growth of the plant-based food market in a big way. People have had a lot of time on their hands these last few months, and many have reassessed their lifestyle choices to include cleaner eating. With immune system health of upmost concern during the pandemic, consumers are pushing hard into the plant-based meat alternative market to align more closely with their health, environmental and sustainability focused values.

Meat alternatives hit mainstream last year with the launch of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and now everyone is getting in on the plant-based action. For example, Ikea recently announced they are rolling out a ‘plantball’ version of their iconic meatball; and KFC Canada gave its plant-based chicken sandwich a permanent home on Canadian menus just earlier this month.


As consumers lean into plant-based alternatives for their families, there are lots of opportunities for brands to help them navigate the landscape. Consumer sentiment is high in the space, with negativity mostly focused on issues with tastes, textures and recipe integration.


We pulled our plant-based foods analysis into Quid’s social dataset for further insight into the context of the conversation, and as you can see it’s quite dense. There’s a wealth of talking points in the conversation for brands to explore for emerging trends and dialing in their market research.


And interestingly, we found that 67% of the global conversation surrounding plant-based food was happening in blogs and forums while Twitter only captures 20% of the narrative.


But moving on, let’s take a look at some of the brands that are making waves in the conversation.

Major Brands Dominating Conversation

You may have heard of Impossible Foods – the brand that partnered with Burger King to create the Impossible Whopper. What you might not know however, is that they’ve apparently been doing their consumer intelligence homework. They’ve certainly hit all the right buttons with their consumers.

Impossible foods prides itself on championing environmental and social issues, and it releases a yearly impact report to show what it’s getting right. Additionally, they make sure they let everyone on social media know where they stand.


Recently, they partnered with Los Angeles’ ABC7 Feed SoCal campaign and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp by donating Impossible burgers to feed those in need. The goal of the initiative being to feed a million people by the end of 2020. It’s a great cause, and consumers love to see a brand with heart.


Similarly, meat-alternative giant Beyond Meat resonates with the health and environmentally conscious saying, “by shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively impact four growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.”

Since these issues are touchstones driving much of the sustainability movement, they’re getting a lot of consumer love in the process.


Not only that, their social media influencer game should be the envy of any brand, featuring the likes of: Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Martha Stewart and a slew of professional athletes with plant-based lifestyles.


Tofu Taking Over, Too

And with the clamor growing louder in the plant-based foods market, we can expect to see growing interest in niche brands such as tofu-maker Nasoya. Tofu has long been used as a meat substitute in recipes by old-school vegans, but brands like Nasoya are stepping it up by providing recipe and substitution ideas to consumers testing the waters of plant-based alternatives.


In addition, the fact that they sell tofu-based kimchi, wraps and noodles sits well with consumers seeking healthy alternatives for dishes they already love. Since consumers always rush to tell others what works for them, brands definitely want to be monitoring forums for market research insights.

And it just makes sense as that’s where consumers are doing theirs. Below we can see a user on a Keto diet support thread telling others how well Nasoya noodles worked for some of his dishes. It’s actionable consumer intelligence into niche online communities like this that give marketing team’s something to work with.


Plant-Based Innovation by Investments & Patents 

As part of their market research into emerging trends, brands would do well to explore the patent dataset to uncover developments in relevant industries. Below is a snapshot of the 51 meat-substitute patents that have been filed over the past five years.


It includes relevant insights into grant dates, company assignees, inventors and filing locations – all of which is searchable for a deeper dive. For example, here we used the bar chart view with bars representing original company assignee to find which companies have filed for the most patents in the space during our time frame.


As you can see, the top ten companies are responsible for 21 of the 51 patents filed during our time frame. It’s always important to know who’s doing what – and where.

Below, we ran a search of plant-based food and meat substitute companies through the company dataset to determine who was receiving the most investment in the space. As you can see, Impossible Foods Inc. towers over the competition with investments received of $2.4B.


Plant Power Will Continue to Trend

But forward-thinking brands will notice how crowded it is down at the bottom. This is especially important since the plant-based food trend is gaining such rapid momentum.

That coupled with the fact that the bulk of these companies were formed within the last 10 years, this chart is sure to look a lot different in the next couple of years. It’s definitely an area where brands want to pay attention.

Overall, the plant-based food market is ripe with consumers needing guidance, and brands have to be on their competitive intelligence a-game to beat others to the punch. Market research powered by next generation artificial intelligence (AI) is the key that top brands use to uncover emerging trends – and you can put that to work here for sure. Be sure to reach out for a personalized demo to see what that looks like for you!

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