Plant-based diets have grown in popularity over the past decade, from being a niche trend to a way of life for 2.5 million Australians – which is more than one in ten of the population. Environmental concerns, and a desire to eat healthier, are key drivers for more Australians choosing plant-based alternatives, in addition to ethical concerns. With this, has come a strong demand for products that look, smell and taste like meat – without any trace of animal products. 

In other markets around the world, plant-based products are now a key driver of growth for retailers, and in the US, the category outpaces overall food growth by more than five times. So with plant-based consumption at an all-time high, what opportunities does that present for Aussie retailers?

A hunger for plant-based

As Aussies seek to eat fewer animal products, and vegan and vegetarian diets become increasingly mainstream, we’re seeing the rise of plant-based offerings in popular restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe and Johnny Rockets, as well as global fast-food chains. We’re also seeing an increase in supermarkets continuously looking to increase plant-based options to meet demand. 

MEET plant-based products have just launched into Coles supermarkets nationwide and are now available at 820 stores.

In 2021, plant-based foods are a booming business. Food manufacturers — from startups to some of the world’s largest meat companies — are innovating and evolving rapidly in this category. These next-generation plant-based meat products are increasingly competitive. 

We are also seeing the plant-based trend among investors, as plant-based startups look to boost business and expand their research and development, and venture capitalists predict massive growth in the industry. 

The future of plant-based opportunities in Australia 

Technology has enabled the development of products that offer better taste, texture and nutritional value than ever before. We’ve seen this from decades of our own research and development. The improvements can also be seen and tasted as big Australian brands, such as Four‘N’Twenty Pies, have introduced plant-based alternatives over the last couple of years, in addition to most major fast-food chains. 

Advancements in product development has also helped drive the number of people embracing a ‘flexitarian’ diet, as these consumers make more plant-based choices, without completely cutting out meat, seafood or dairy, but still want products that replicate the taste and texture of meat.  

Food isn’t the only category to enjoy plant-based opportunities. Conscious consumerism is another growing trend that goes hand in hand with plant-based products. Many shoppers are opting to cut out other animal products, such as leather and fur, giving retailers more opportunity to focus on vegan ranges. One example of this is Doctor Martens iconic boot brand, which experienced a 70 per cent increase in sales after introducing a vegan range. It’s increasingly evident that ethical and environmental consciousness will help retailers cater to these consumers. 

We are certainly seeing the tipping point for plant-based consumerism as it is now considered a trendy and health-conscious way of life, endorsed by many celebrities – including Grey’s Anatomy actress, Ellen Pompeo and teenage heartthrob, Zac Efron. Whether it’s ethical beauty products, faux-fur or plant-based food, retailers have a lot to win from offering ethical alternatives for conscious consumers or even focus their business on plant-based ranges. 

The industry is growing and evolving and there is no longer a question of if it will catch on, but how fast it will expand and who will cater to the growing number of plant-based shoppers in Australia? Retailers are wise to cater to the growing tastes and hunger for plant-based and ethical options without compromising the eating experience. 

Matt Dunn is co-founder and CEO at MEET 

Image 1: MEET CEO and co-founder, Matt Dunn (Photo credit: Wes Nel Photography)

Image 2: MEET meetballs (Photo credit: Wes Nel Photography)