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Growing appetite for plant-based foods

Australia has a growing appetite for plant-based foods.
Photo: Chris Stacey

Environmental, health and animal welfare concerns are primary motivations for buying plant-based foods. In recent years, research has emphasised the health and environmental benefits of a diet rich in plant-based foods and reduced animal-based food consumption.

This research has coincided with the rise of flexitarian eating, which has become more popular among Australians. A flexitarian diet is a flexible eating style that emphasises the addition of plant or plant-based foods and beverages, incorporates dairy and eggs and encourages less frequent consumption of meat, and/or consumption of meat in smaller portions.

According to recent statistics, one in three Australians has consciously reduced their meat consumption in recent years.

Substitute sales on the rise

The sales of dairy and meat substitutes bought from Australian supermarkets and other food retailers have increased by approximately 30 per cent since 2018-19. They are projected to continue to rise in coming years.

Due to this trend, the food industry is expected to undergo significant changes, prompting manufacturers to consider incorporating more plant-based ingredients into their products to cater to evolving consumer preferences.

The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council conducted an audit in 2022 which found a 33.2 per cent increase in plant-based meat alternative products since 2020.

Plant-based meats across most categories had lower kilojoules and sodium, higher or comparable protein, lower saturated fat per 100 grams, and health-promoting fibre compared to their conventional meat equivalents.

Plant-based milk

Plant-based dairy alternatives, such as yoghurts and cheese, represent a vital segment among dairy-free alternatives. Plant-based milk is the most developed of all plant-based categories, with nut milk accounting for the greatest proportion of products.

Plant-based meals, especially pre-prepared meals, have become more prevalent in recent years, with meat analogue-containing products having the highest protein, fibre and sodium content.

The shift towards plant-based diets in Australia is not just a passing trend but a fundamental change in consumer preferences driven by environmental, health and animal welfare concerns. As manufacturers consider incorporating more plant-based ingredients into their products, consumers can expect to see a wider variety of plant-based options in the market.

The recent audit by the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council highlights the significant health benefits of plant-based meat alternatives, including lower kilojoules and saturated fat, as well as higher fibre content.

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