Global consumer demand for plant-based products has increased since the onset of COVID-19, research by Palsgaard suggests.

The emulsifier and stabilizer specialist commissioned consumer research into the plant-based market, focusing specifically on three categories: milk alternatives, dairy-free yogurts and frozen desserts. Researchers surveyed 1,307 consumers from Mexico, France, Russia, the U.S. and Vietnam between Sept. 7-14, 2021.

The research showed consumers are generally happy with existing plant-based products, but there are areas where they would like to see improvements, such as less sedimentation in plant-based “milks”; products with a longer shelf-life; and enhanced texture and creaminess.

The survey found nearly half of consumers (44 percent) had purchased more of such products since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve percent said their purchases of plant-based products had decreased, and 44 percent said they had stayed the same.

The number one reason respondents chose plant-based products was that they considered them better for health, an opinion held by 75.4 percent. The second biggest driver, chosen by 51.3 percent, was “I like the taste”, while 45.8 percent said they bought into the plant-based category because they are concerned about the environment and sustainability.

The survey also found that it is primarily younger consumers who have changed their purchasing behavior. Since the start of the pandemic almost half (47.4 percent) of respondents ages 18-24 (and 48.4 percent of those ages 25-34) had increased the number of plant-based products they were buying, compared with just 34.8 percent of those ages 55-64.

“The onset of COVID-19 appears to have triggered more interest in the market for plant-based food and beverages,” said Haydee Carlos, Palsgaard application manager. “This may be because the pandemic has led to a greater focus on health generally and on the environment. At the same time, the plant-based sector is rapidly evolving, so there are more and more new products out there for consumers to explore.”

The company’s white paper, “Plant-based Potential,” covers the research in more detail, and it identifies several areas where consumers would like to see improvements, such as:

  • Reducing sedimentation in plant-based “milks”
  • Enhancing the mouthfeel, and particularly the texture and creaminess, of these products
  • Shelf-life, and ensuring products last long enough once opened
  • Minimizing water separation in dairy-free yogurts

It also highlights some of Palsgaard’s emulsifier-stabilizer blends, which can help manufacturers with plant-based product development.

“The good news is our survey showed us that overall, consumers are really happy with the plant-based products that are already out there,” Carlos said. “We were, however, able to identify a few key areas where consumers would like to see improvements, and our white paper explores this in more detail.”