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When Vegan Becomes Mainstream

23 January 2020

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As the plant-based revolution continues its upward trajectory in 2020, we witness its impact on a rapidly evolving food & beverage industry adapting to the demands of increasingly “conscious” consumers. According to Euromonitor International, the plant-based meat substitute market alone is set to hit US$15.8 billion in 2020. With vegan-related trends dominating 2020 predictions from Whole Foods, Uber Eats, Innova Market Insights and Business Insider among other media resources, it comes as no surprise that we’re seeing new evidence that pushes for more products, menus and innovations that support this green movement. Strategic research and trend forecasting consultancy Asian Consumer Intelligence, with data support from flavor database Capchavate, puts an ear to the ground in the Asia Pacific region and tackles these of-the-moment trends in the vegan category.

Vegan butters and spreads are now occupying more shelf space in specialty grocery and supermarket shelves. Start-ups sourcing from local farms and communities, as well as indie players joining the wellness movement are entering the scene with artisanal jars of nut butters, alt-milk butters and sweet or savory spreads made with only 4-5 “clean” ingredients. In the Philippines, health-promoting online retailer The Green Grocer Manila now offers Vegan Better Butter using cashew milk and coconut oil, as well as an organic Coconut Butter spread as an alternative to regular peanut butter. Another homegrown brand Sarah’s Artisanal Treats recently introduced its native Pili Nut Butter, said to have higher Magnesium content than cashew or almond butter. A hit in local trade fairs and wellness pop-up markets, Rose’s Kitchen PH unveiled its Midnight Cacao Peanut Butter variant sweetened with cacao nibs for a better-for-you twist.  

Another trend supporting the vegan lifestyle and encouraging conversion for more and more consumers is the proliferation of vegan-friendly meal kit delivery companies as well as heat-and-eat subscription services. In Australia, well-known recipe & meal box delivery company Marley Spoon began including vegan options to their menu in October 2019, exciting both vegan-curious and plant-focused foodies customers with three vegan dishes each week. Melbourne-based The Nourish Box was also recently established as the first fully-plant based meal delivery kit in Australia. Heading over to Singapore, we find the introduction of Plantface in 2019, describing itself as a reasonably-priced, no fuss, delicious, plant-based meal delivery service. Their business model hinges itself on affordability that it claims none of its rivals can compete with by taking bulk orders, then cooking and delivering them in larger batches.

Lastly, a significant increase in soy-free labels from food manufacturers are also causing consumers to shift to plant-based ingredients such as mung bean, seaweed, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado and watermelon seed. Although going soy-free in Asia hasn’t caught up in the same way as North America and Europe, likely because soya is so intrinsic to many Asian diets and therefore ingrained in local cuisines, a growing number of vegan specialty stores are pulling out all the stops to categorize and promote their soy-free products. Green Common, Hong Kong’s famed plant-based grocery which just launched online in China with shopping site TMall Global, has just made it easier for customers with allergies and specific needs to purchase soy-free products. Promoting new offerings such as Vegelink Wakame Kelp Buds, True-Life Quinoa Black Rice Cookies, Yu-Min Golden Buckwheat & Nuts Crisp Balls (all from Taiwan) and flavored Avocado Chips from Thai brand Temole, the user-friendly website with English version provides clear labels that indicate its free-from attributes as well as any value added nutritional properties. 

So what? While news sources, studies and statistics may seem to focused more on the advancement of meat substitutes as far as the vegan market is concerned, we see many more micro-trends supporting the plant-based revolution that present more opportunities for start-ups and small businesses to nab a slice of the booming industry. As well, meat alternative players need to respond quickly to criticisms on the the quality of protein, fats, as well as the amount of processing and sodium that goes into products claiming to be healthier than animal-based produce. Diving into new technologies and manufacturing processes seems to be the key to addressing these arguments.

Find more similar reports on Asian Consumer Intelligence website here.