Plant-based food for everyone?
Although many people want to eat more plant-based food, some consumer segments are less keen. How can we convince them as well?
Facts about the consumer segments:
Meat is traditionally associated with masculinity, while vegetarian diet is more associated with feminine values. This is reflected in consumers’
preferences – far more women than men are positive towards a primarily plant-based diet.
The seven identified consumer segments:
Group #1 – constitutes 5 percent: The Flexitarians
Rarely eat meat or fish, and often eat plant-based foods. They are very interested in plant-based foods, and find such food to be healthy, tasty,
and satisfying. They are concerned with the relationship between food, the environment and animal welfare.
Group #2 – constitutes 15 percent The Open-Minded (with regards to plant-based food)
The group that is the second-most interested in plant-based food; concerned with the relationship between food, the environment and
animal welfare. They believe plant-based food is healthy, tastes good and is satisfying, but has relatively high meat consumption. They dislike
Group #3 – constitutes 12 percent: The Pescatarians
They eat fish and seafood often, dislike and rarely eat processed food and are concerned with nutritional content. After Flexitarians they eat
least meat. They are concerned with the relationship between food, the environment and animal welfare.
Group #4 – constitutes 18 percent: The Processed Food Eaters
This group eats few vegetables and a lot of processed food but are relatively interested in plant-based foods. They are somewhat concerned
with the relationship between food, the environment and animal welfare.
Group #5 – constitutes 18 percent: The Omnivores
This group has the greatest meat consumption, but also eat vegetables and fish more often than average. They are of the opinion that a meal for dinner should contain fish or meat.
Group #6 – constitutes 19 percent: The Conservatives
This group prefers traditional food and want fish- or meat-based meals. They are not interested in plant-based food or with the relationship
between food, the environment and animal welfare. They eat fish relatively often. The greenhouse gas emissions from their diet are lower
Group #7 – constitutes 14 per cent: The Carnivores
This group rarely eats plant-based food, fish, or seafood. They are the least concerned about the nutrient content, and often eat processed food. They often eat beef and pork. They are not interested in plant-based food or with the relationship between food, the environment and animal welfare.
“We have gained more insight into which consumer groups seem the most receptive to increasing their intake of legumes and other plant-based foods, which is useful knowledge for the development of new products in this category,” says Øydis Ueland.
Consumers grouped by attitudes
Øydis and her colleague Antje Gonera have supervised Malin Hatlebakk for her master’s thesis work on consumer attitudes to plant-based food, meat consumption, animal welfare and sustainability. The data has been sourced from a quantitative consumer survey which forms the basis of the SIFO report Meat free eating habits – what do consumers think?
Malin identified seven distinct consumer segments based on how consumers eat, shop and think about food. There were clear correlations between these segments and demographic variables such as gender, age and place of residence. The segments are also compared to Norwegian consumer types, or personas, which present values and attitudes in future consumer groups.
“There are clear similarities between some of our personas and the consumer segments. The fact that they complement each other can be used to gain a better understanding of customer groups and introduce targeted and more accurate approaches for each segment”, says Antje. She leads the consumer and innovation research in the FoodProFuture project, where the personas and the SIFO report have been developed.
Do people put their money where their mouth is?
The participants’ diets were analysed, and the data was used to calculate the carbon footprint of the various consumer groups in collaboration with NORSUS. The results show that there is not always a correlation between a person’s environmental awareness and the level of the greenhouse gas emissions from their diet.
For example, the group named The Conservatives are not particularly concerned about the climate. Nevertheless, their meals are associated with lower than average greenhouse gas emissions. The opposite is the case for the so-called Open-Minded, who show significant environmental awareness, yet also have average greenhouse gas emissions from their diets.
Who wants to eat a more plant-based diet?
One barrier to adopting a more plant-based diet is scepticism about whether one is getting enough protein. Although legumes can solve this problem, it is only among the Flexitarians and the Open-Minded that peas, beans, and lentils are a natural part of the diet.
The Flexitarians are the only ones who have a positive attitude towards plant-based ready-to-eat meals. Having this group further increase their consumption of plant-based food will not have much impact – they mainly eat this way already.
The Carnivores segment would have the greatest health benefits if they turned to a more plant-based diet, but they are also the most difficult to convince. They are not interested in reducing their meat intake, eating legumes, or trying new dishes; they prefer a traditional diet.
“The Processed food eaters are more likely to change. They don’t currently eat much plant-based food but are interested in increasing their intake. They already eat a lot of processed food and are
used to these types of meals. The main hurdle for bringing this group on board is probably price. Their income is lower than average, and ready-to-eat vegetarian dishes are often more expensive than other options”, says Øydis.
Antje says they are also optimistic about the Open-Minded. ”This group is motivated to have a more plant-based diet. Their attitudes are similar to that of the Flexitarians, but their actual diet is completely different. They prefer to cook from scratch and are sceptical towards processed food, which is a barrier for choosing plant-based ready-to-eat dishes. At the same time, they find it difficult to prepare healthy, protein-rich and tasty dinners only from plant-based raw materials.”
Hatlebakk’s master thesis is linked to FoodProFuture and the strategic programmes InnoFood and FoodSMaC