30 September 2021

Plant-Based Food and Beverages

Current state of the market, prospects and ideas to support the diffusion of vegetal alternatives to milk and meat.


Vegetal alternatives: an evolving market

We have already talked about it in several articles: in the last twenty years, and with greater intensity in the last decade, the market for animal-based products has been contracting. In parallel, the demand and supply of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products are growing.

  • On the one hand, the consumer profile is changing: the number of those who identify as vegans has doubled since 2016, from 1.3 to 2.6 million in Europe. All those who actively reduce or completely exclude at least some animal products (including vegetarians, pescatarians and flexitarians) are in total 30.8% of the population. Today 10-30% of Europeans no longer consider themselves a complete meat eater.
  • On the other hand, the market for plant-based alternatives is growing: between 2010 and 2020, retail sales of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products has grown by almost 10% per year, with comforting forecasts. Market value is expected to increase by 70%, from €4.4 billion in 2019 to €7.5 billion expected by 2025 in the EU and the UK. Globally, the meat alternatives market was valued at $4,532.6 million in 2019, and is expected to reach $7,106.7 million by 2025. The global market for dairy alternatives (including substitutes of milk) was valued at $16,130.9 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $41,061 million in 2025.

Why are consumers turning to plant alternatives?

We can identify several reasons that push consumers to choose more and more vegetable alternatives to milk and meat. Let’s briefly summarize the most significant.

  1. Vegetable = healthier?

The search for alternatives to animal products stems from concerns for one’s well-being, allergies and intolerances, but has also aesthetic reasons (weight reduction).

  1. More sustainability and attention to animal welfare

The greater availability of information on animal welfare, the environmental impact of farms and climate change inspire more ethical choices in consumers.

  1. Curiosity towards new flavors

Many consumers are driven by curiosity and the desire to discover new textures, tastes and food styles, also coming from the traditions of other countries.

  1. I’m better, we’re all better

Many consumers decide to eat less meat, cheese and dairy products to improve their well-being (for instance, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cholesterol control and reduction of fat intake). At the same time, they are aware that this choice can have a positive global impact on climate change and animal welfare.

  1. Vegetable is good (and different)

With the growing availability of a wide variety of plant-based products, consumers are more motivated to try alternatives to their favorite foods.

  1. Greater availability in everyday places

As well-known brands expand their offer of plant-based products, the shelves of supermarkets show greater variety of choice and availability. Thus, these products earn the trust of consumers, becoming a customary and cleared choice.

  1. “Normalization” and adaptation

More used to seeing organic and plant-based products, more and more consumers today are prone to include more natural options in their diet.

  1. Growing distrust towards animal products

Especially as a result of the many scandals related to animal welfare and hygiene in the meat industry, consumers are wary of the quality of food of animal origin.

  1. Green lifestyle

Increasingly accepted, plant-based foods have now become part of the culture and identity of consumers.

  1. Veg tendency

Interest in new plant-based foods continues to grow thanks to greater popularity and visibility in the mainstream media and on social media.

  1. Different is beautiful

The growing variety of alternatives to milk and meat is causing consumers to put more and more alternative food and drink products in their shopping cart.

  1. Alternatives for religious choices

Even those who avoid (some) animal products for ethical and religious reasons can rely on plant-based alternatives to add variety to the diet.

Obstacles to the greater diffusion of vegetable alternatives

Despite the growing popularity of plant-based alternatives, today there are still a number of obstacles to their wider uptake. Following a series of international surveys (conducted in particular in Poland, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Spain) some critical issues emerged. Namely:

  • The lack of variety and innovation in the range of plant-based products (e.g. alternatives to fresh meat, alternatives to fish and eggs and regional specialties, better vegetable cheeses, yoghurt, mayonnaise and ice cream with different flavors);
  • Taste, which does not fully satisfy all consumer groups;
  • The high price of many plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.

Persuading consumers and overcoming mistrust: some ideas

Below, we offer some suggestions to encourage the spread of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products in various countries. The indications on good practices to follow and errors to avoid base on research conducted in Poland, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Spain.








Emphasize taste and variety.


Focus on packaging with attractive design and clear information.


Using scientific evidence to persuade the most undecided.

Place products as a culinary enrichment instead of a substitute.


Focus on positive messages based on facts.


Emphasize the environmental benefits.


Be inspired by the regional tradition to differentiate the products.

Focus on sustainability or the organic nature of the ingredients.


Communicate clearly and tangibly to help consumers quickly recognize the product.


Increase media presence and partner with associations or authorities to gain trust.

Highquality products.


Clear communication (ingredients, quality and level of processing).


Help consumers evaluate by giving clear information on the packaging.


Encourage tasting and support personal recommendations.

Focus on the benefits for the environment or for animals


Invest in credible certifications (e.g. V-Label)


To counter the dissemination of misleading information and distrust, support the legal definition processes.


Don’t overuse terms like “natural” or “healthy“.


Don’t lose the right balance between informative and attractive.

Avoid moral or ideological messages. Instead, try to stimulate the curiosity of consumers.

Don’t look for “original” names at all costs, but opt for new names that clearly identify plant-based products.


Do not emphasize the term “vegan“.

Do not add flavorings or additives of animal origin to products labeled as “vegan” or “natural”.

Avoid promoting a product as healthy if it isn’t.