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Fi Europe 2023

Quality, taste, and health credentials spur plant-based opportunities [Interview]

Article-Quality, taste, and health credentials spur plant-based opportunities [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights FIE23 Interview with Kalina Doykova, Euromonitor International
European plant-based players are focusing on taste, flavour, cleaner labels and are updating ingredient lists to stay relevant. However, expect the plant-based category to slow amid inflation pressures before it experiences a bounce-back, says Kalina Doykova, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International.

Some of the leading trends in the European plant-based food industry include an increasing focus on taste and flavour innovations to address some consumers’ dissatisfaction with the taste and texture of plant-based products, according Doykova. She also says the plant-based category is widening, and there is a higher presence of plant-based products in the snacks category. Seafood substitutes is one sub-category to watch. We caught up with Doykova who will be speaking at the Fi Europe Conference 2023 to find out more.

How would you describe the current plant-based food industry in Europe?

“The current plant-based food industry in Europe is experiencing a slowdown, with companies in the plant-based sector struggling to meet over-inflated growth forecasts. European plant-based providers are facing immense pressures amid rising costs and stalling sales. They are struggling to retain consumers, whose budgets have become tighter in light of the current difficult economic situation.

“Despite a growing number of companies being directly or indirectly forced to exit the industry or rationalise their product portfolio amid this slowdown, the current challenges are unlikely to persist in the long term as companies adapt and find innovative approaches to remain in the industry by addressing consumers’ expectations.”

What factors influence today’s plant-based food industry in Europe?

“One of the most important factors influencing today’s plant-based food industry in Europe is food inflation.

“Despite Euromonitor International’s data indicating that in European countries, the average price of animal-based products grew at a higher rate in 2023 than plant-based products, the latter’s higher average price has become a bigger problem as food price inflation has gripped European countries.

“Consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to pay a premium for plant-based products, and some are resorting back to animal-based products as a result.”

What are the core challenges for R&D professionals and manufacturers in the sector?

“According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition survey fielded in 2023, taste is the leading reason for consumers not consuming plant-based alternatives. Taste is among the key challenges the industry is trying to address to meet consumers’ expectations after reported dissatisfaction with the taste and texture experiences which have deterred repeat purchases among some consumers.”

© Euromonitor InternationalTop 5 reasons for not consuming plant-based meat alternatives Europe 2023

What do you expect to see in the European sector over the next 12 months as we head into 2024?

“We expect the European plant-based sector to slow down and see weaker growth in the next 12 months compared to the peak growth rates in 2020 and 2021. Volumes in some European countries, such as the UK or the Netherlands, are expected to decline until the end of 2023 and see weak positive growth in 2024.

“It is likely that companies in the sector will continue to rationalise their plant-based production, offering a more limited range of plant-based products or putting a stop or pause on their plant-based ranges. These developments, however, are not expected to deter product innovation.”

What recommendations do you have for R&D professionals and manufacturers planning their pipelines?

“The key opportunities for R&D professionals and manufacturers in the sector are to focus on addressing the taste challenge and focus on the quality and health aspects of the product.

“As consumers are becoming more concerned with the processing levels of some plant-based products, companies can focus on revising and shortening their ingredient lists, adding more natural ingredients, increasing the protein content and nutritional value of their products and clearly communicating these changes to the consumers.”

About the Speaker

Kalina Doykova is a Senior Research Analyst at Euromonitor International, with a focus on food and nutrition. Based in London, she conducts and commissions research across packaged and fresh food industries in Western European markets and provides additional strategic insights and content to clients. Kalina has a particular interest in health and wellness, the plant-based industry and data and forecasting.

Kalina holds a Master’s degree in International Political Economy from King’s College London and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University.