| Aug 8, 2019

The Real Deal with Fake Meat (Part 2)


In our previous post, we discussed the emergence of plant-based meat alternatives. Numerator Insights and Custom Survey data show that more consumers are turning to these products because they’re healthier, environmentally friendly, and ethically sourced. 

Although vegans and vegetarians are certainly on board, dietary restrictions are not a top reason for trying plant-based meat alternatives. Brands have been very smart with their ad messaging, touting the health benefits and targeting consumers who love the taste of meat. 

Most purchasers don’t have a beef with plant-based meat alternatives. In fact, the vast majority are satisfied and open to trying other plant-based products. But how does plant-based meat compare to real meat? How are these perceptions affecting purchasing habits, not only of real meat, but other grocery categories?

Real Meat Is Still the Top Choice

According to a Numerator Custom Survey, nearly half (49%) of plant-based meat alternative triers prefer real meat. 29% prefer meat alternatives and 23% have no preference. 

When asked what they dislike about plant-based meat alternatives, triers pointed to high cost, taste that doesn’t measure up to real meat, and texture. But that’s not stopping them from eating the “fake” stuff for the health and environmental benefits.

The Categories Affected by Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

The Numerator Custom Survey also shows the increase in consumption of plant-based meat alternatives is coming at the expense of other meat, such as beef, chicken, and pork. 49% of triers say they’re eating more plant-based meat alternatives now than a year ago, while 37% said they’re not eating as much other meat.


We’re seeing a similar trend with dairy alternatives. Consumption is up this year for 47% of plant-based dairy alternative triers, while 29% are consuming fewer dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

In the past year, plant-based meat alternative buyers have shifted their grocery dollars away from pork, eggs, cheese, beef, and poultry, according to Numerator Insights data. Interestingly, spending on fish has moved upstream by nearly 10%.


When we specifically look at in-store baskets with Beyond Meat products, we see that these health-conscious consumers are also filling their baskets with produce and non-dairy alternatives. As you might expect, healthy eating habits don’t stop with meat.


Overall, buyers of plant-based meat alternatives spend 13% more on groceries annually. This could be due in part to higher prices. However, as we pointed out in the previous post, these buyers also tend to have high household incomes.

No Signs of Slowing Down

Four in five plant-based meat alternative triers will replace at least some of their real meat in the next year, according to a Numerator Custom Survey. In fact, 21% said they’ll replace all real meat, while just 9% said they won’t replace any real meat. 

Despite the enthusiasm and glowing reviews, plant-based meats are still on the rare side. More than one in five buyers said they have trouble finding plant-based meat alternatives at their typical grocery store. Some even have to visit special stores. 

Retailers should take advantage of this opportunity to carry these products and win with shoppers who spend more on grocery items than the average shopper. Those who already carry these products could consider in-store displays or expanded shelf space to make plant-based meat alternatives more visible and increase trip spend.

Brands should work to enhance existing products, prioritizing the benefits of plant-based eating while looking for ways to improve taste and texture. There’s also a tremendous opportunity for product innovation as consumers have shown a willingness to try other plant-based items. With so few dominant brands and ongoing concerns about price, an opening exists for value and private label brands to step in and offer more affordable options.

Reservations about taste and texture are clearly taking a backseat to health, environmental, and ethical reasons for buying plant-based meat alternatives. However, because about half of plant-based meat alternative triers still prefer the taste of real meat, it’s a good idea for brands to continue promoting the likeness to real meat and win over those consumers.

If you’d like to dig deeper into how plant-based meat alternatives are affecting your categories and identify areas for growth, contact us for insights.