For all the news about plant-based diets going mainstream, there’s some context that puts the most frequently cited statistics in sobering perspective.

For example, the number of Americans who identify as vegan rose 600% between 2014 and 2017. But the actual numbers are still small, up to 6% of the population from 1%. Impressive and inspiring, but not proof that we’ll all be living in a meat-free utopia in a few years.

The sale of plant-based meat alternatives rose 23% in 2018 – but 2019 is also expected to be a record year for per capita meat consumption in the U.S.

The decline of dairy milk sales in recent years has been linked to the increasing popularity of plant-based milks — but dairy milk consumption has been dropping for decades, and according to most predictions the industry will still be five times the size of alternative milks a few years from now.

No Guarantees

So while plant-based diets, veganism, sustainability and other socially and eco-conscious consumer trends are definitely on the upswing, there’s nothing inevitable about their long-term success. Here are some of the challenges that plant-based and vegan activists, retailers, manufacturers, food producers and restaurants will face over the next several years to make sure current trends turn into a long-term cultural shift.

  • Confusion: There’s no agreement about what a plant-based diet means. To some people, the phrase is synonymous with vegan, meaning no animal products at all are consumed. For others, it means a diet of mostly plants, but not necessarily free of meat, dairy or eggs. Additionally, there’s limited regulation of some claims on food packaging (like “natural”), so it can be hard for consumers to navigate exactly what they’re getting. And the dairy and animal agriculture industries have launched intense PR campaigns against their new plant-based competition.
  • Ideology: You don’t have to be a strict vegetarian or vegan to enjoy plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products. But there’s a common assumption that plant-based foods are substitutes for “real food” and intended only for vegetarians and vegans. There are plenty of reasons to include plant-based meat and dairy alternatives in an omnivorous diet — to reduce your carbon footprint, to limit saturated fat or just because you enjoy them.
  • Convenience: Two of the significant factors behind current trends are variety and availability. More products in more stores gives plant-based burgers and almond milk credibility. The introduction of ready-made meals and fast-food options is having a similar effect. But these are still niche markets, and they’ll need to grow substantially in order to have long-term viability.

Orange Orchard specializes in vegan and plant-based public relations. We know that the transformation we’re hoping for won’t just happen by itself. If you and your company are focused on vegan products, we can work together to make the future better. Contact Orange Orchard online or call (865) 977-1973.