Flexitarians – Bringing a Whole New Meaning to ‘Eat Your Fruits and Veggies’

You’ve likely been exposed (or are one) to vegetarians, vegans, or pescatarians. But, have you heard about flexitarians? It’s a diet that’s been around for many years but has been gaining further traction as consumers continue to evolve in their diets, shopping habits, and search for more healthy options.

Flexitarians – who are these creatures!?

Flexitarians are consumers who are intentionally choosing to eat more vegetables and be healthier in their diet choices, but still occasionally eat meat or fish. The decision can be driven by health reasons as well as an intention to combat climate change, promote food sustainability, and reduce pollution. 52 percent of US consumers are trying to include more plant-based food in their diet, and one-third of Americans identify as flexitarians (source). What does this really mean for the food industry?

With flexitarians comes the rise of flexitarian options. Companies are providing consistently more options to appease flexitarians, and a huge example of this is the concept of plant-based protein, or non-meat protein substitutes. In June 2019, the popular plant-based meat producing company Beyond Meat raised $240 million in IPO, nearing $1.5 billion in valuation (source). Various restaurants and retailers offer Beyond Meat products, which are made from “mixtures of pea protein isolates, rice protein, mung bean protein, coconut oil, and other ingredients like potato starch, apple extract, sunflower lecithin, pomegranate powder, etc.” (source). Beyond Meat’s competitor, Impossible Foods, even has a partnership with Burger King and has become a regular menu item. Organizations like The Jackfruit Company, who create pre-made frozen vegetarian meals made specifically with jackfruit as the core ingredient, are continuing to find innovative ways to provide more products and more variety for consumers. A company called Miyoko that sells plant-based cheese now has products in 12,000 stores and is doubling sales year over year.

As time goes on and society continues to change, long-standing brands are making the decision to offer more of these options too. Household names like Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods, and Hormel Foods are creating products like chicken nuggets and burgers that are meats blended with vegetables. These products are not only targeted at the flexitarian movement but are also marketed as ways to encourage children to get more vegetables. It’s like when your mother used to try and trick you to eat your vegetables, except this time you’re actively choosing too!

What Flexitarian Means for Brands

While it’s unrealistic to assume that everyone will immediately change their diet and become a flexitarian, there are still some key takeaways that should be highlighted about this movement. The first one is that this serves as further evidence that the modern consumer cares about the make-up of their food. Much like those who have the desire for local or organic products, flexitarians are intentional about what they eat. If someone is a flexitarian because they are trying to create less of an environmental impact, then they are a consumer who wants the brands that they choose to help them make a difference in the world. If someone is a flexitarian because they are trying to eat healthier, then they will review the products that they are consuming to make sure they fit within their dietary restrictions. Whatever the reason for the flexitarian decision, these consumers are hyper-focused on the food they consume. Another key takeaway here is that food brands need to be adaptable and willing to provide options to their customers. The average consumer is still going to continue to purchase meat, but the rise of flexitarians could hint at the ever-changing marketplace, and brands that adapt with the times could position themselves well.

Food retailers and wholesalers alike can see the effects of flexitarians. If you are a food company that wants to be forward-thinking about your interaction with these consumers, consider reaching out to shelly@marburycreativegroup.com and let’s see what we can cook up!

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