The Plant-Based Food Revolution

Growing up it was common for my family to have a hot meal for dinner each night. That would have involved a specific type of meat in most instances. Fast forward to 2021, and the desire for consumers to reduce their meat intake is gaining momentum. In fact, according to an Angus Reid Forum survey undertaken in January 2020, they revealed close to 40% of Canadians have reduced their meat consumption in lieu of the damaging environmental impact, and for their health.[i] The plant-based movement has given rise to distinct consumer groups. Though Vegans and Vegetarians now make up close to 10% of the Canadian population,[ii]  this consumer segment alone is not responsible for the plant-based food revolution. The consumer segment driving the mainstream plant-based shift is the Flexitarian consumer. The year 2020 was defined as “The Year of the Flexitarian” by Ms. J. Grant and Ms. H. Richter, Senior Associate Consumer – Goods Research.

Flexitarian Consumer

The Flexitarian Consumer

Flexitarians are those consumers who primarily consume a plant-based diet but will eat meat on occasion. “On occasion” is a term that is loosely defined as they vary on how many times per week or month, they consume red meat. In the United States, 47% of consumers now identify as being flexitarian with 43% believing flexitarian is a permanent lifestyle change.[iii]

Closer to home, Angus Reid found close to 43% of Canadians were more likely to make the switch to a more flexitarian lifestyle.[iv] In diving into the demographics of this consumer segment, some clear patterns have emerged:

  1. Flexitarians skew slightly toward women.
  2. The younger generation is more inclined to becoming flexitarians:
    1. More than 50% of consumers between the ages of 24-29 described themselves as flexitarian,[v] and
    2. 54% of Generation Z are now labeling themselves as flexitarians.[vi]

Mintel also revealed as consumers age, they are also more inclined to consuming less meat:

  1. 20% of consumers between the ages of 45 to 54 and
  2. 25% for those 65 and older described themselves as being flexitarian.[vii] Though the majority of meat-eating consumers are shifting towards the consumption of plant-based foods, a 2019 study revealed taste and price are still the top 2 motivators of food choice for this group as outlined in Appendix 1.

Marketing Tips for Flexitarian Consumers

Flexitarians are consumers like everyone else. Here are 5 tips for marketing to this growing consumer segment:[viii]

  1. Do not Segregate Meat-Free Products: Showcase all products on the sell sheet together.
  2. Use Positive Rather Than Negative Descriptors: Many brands have found the label vegan to be a turn-off to the ordinary consumer. Plant-based is an alternative that sounds more positive.
  3. Emphasize Health Benefits: Call attention to the product’s health benefits. According to Mintel, only 43% of consumers think plant-based foods can provide all the protein they require, while 37% are unsure.[ix]
  4. Call Attention to Sustainability Efforts: Call attention to easy to recycle packaging or the use of alternative energy in the processing facilities.
  5. Use Traditional Packaging Design Considerations: Packaging should protect food, look great, be easy to use, and be eye-catching regardless of the product inside.

This segment is a trend, not a fad as most millennials will raise their children on a plant-based diet. As such, brands regardless of product style would be wise to engage with this consumer sector.



[i] Majority of Canadians See Reducing Red Meat as Important, Study Finds,, January 2020

[ii] More than 3 Million Canadians Vegetarian or Vegan: Study,, July 2018.

[iii] Winning In Plant-Based Meats with Natural Colours, Ottera, 2021

[iv] Majority of Canadians See Reducing Red Meat as Important, Study Finds,, January 2020

[v] Over Half of Young U.S. Consumers are Now Flexitarian, According to New Study,, January 2021

[vi] 42% of Global Consumers are Flexitarians & Driving Mainstream Plant-Based Shift,, April 2021

[vii] Flexitarians: Who are They?, March 2021

[viii] 5 Tips for Marketing to Flexitarian Consumers,, January 2018

[ix] Flexitarians: Who are They?, March 2021