The Growing ‘Vegetarian Inclined’ Diet

Those who are “vegetarian inclined” avoid consuming meat if convenient substitutes are available, and the market is full of plant-based protein offerings for them.

Food manufacturers have been expanding product offerings made with plant-based proteins recently as meat-alternatives no longer appeal only to the vegetarian and vegan crowds.[1] With the variety of plant-based protein products growing, many consumers say they are choosing these products because they perceive them to be more healthful alternatives.[2] As such, protein from plant sources is included near the top of the list of “specific components considered to be healthful by consumers” by 72 percent of respondents to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2017Annual Food and Health Survey.[3]

The assumption might be that more Americans are identifying as vegan (consuming no animal products), vegetarian (consuming no meat products) or flexible vegetarian (mainly vegetarian with some exceptions).[4]  However, a mere 1 percent of the population classify themselves as vegan or vegetarian and 8 percent say they are flexible vegetarians, according to ongoing tracking of eating attitudes and behaviors by market research company, The NPD Group.[5] “About 27 million actually claim to follow a plant-based diet such as vegan, vegetarian or flexible vegetarian,” NPD reports.[6] In addition, annual eatings per capita of plant-based meat alternatives has declined from 5 in 2013 to 3 in 2016, the research firm explains.[7] NPD reports that plant-based meat alternatives are consumed as center-of-plate for a meager 3 annual eatings.[8] Contrasting that with the 73 center-of-plate annual eatings of meat consumption clearly highlights that the great majority of Americans continue to have meat at the center of their plates.[9]

While many in the food industry believe the expansion and long-term consumer trend of plant-based meat alternatives is in its beginning stages, many predict plant-based proteins may go mainstream in 2017, according to Rabobank’s RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness reader survey.[10]  Those surveyed listed the following as trendsetting companies: Beyond Meat, Califia, Clara Foods, Impossible Foods, Kite Hill, MALK, Memphis Meats, Perfect Day Foods and Ripple.[11]

Moving forward, vegetarian inclined consumers will be responsible for propelling plant-based alternatives forward since vegans and vegetarians appear to comprise a minute portion of the consumers, Euromonitor International reports.[12] Regarding plant-based alternatives, NPD’s David Portalatin explains, “Expanding consumer choice and empowering them to craft their own path may provide growth opportunities for manufacturers and retailers in this space.”[13]


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[1] The NPD Group.

[2] The NPD Group.

[3] Food Insight. “Survey: Nutrition Information Abounds, But Many Doubt Food Choices.” Last updated 23 May 2017. Press release. International Food Information Council Foundation. Accessed on 27 May 2017. Retrieved from

[4] The NPD Group.

[5] The NPD Group.

[6] The NPD Group.

[7] The NPD Group.

[8] The NPD Group.

[9] The NPD Group.

[10] Rabobank. “U.S. Talking Points. Emerging Trends to Watch in 2017.” Jan 2017. RaboResearch. Food & Agribusiness. Report.

[11] Rabobank

[12] Euromonitor International.

[13] The NPD Group.