Though meat still has a massive lead, respondents said they are looking to eat more plant-based protein and less animal protein.

Mike Pomranz
September 19, 2017

Nothing beats a juicy steak, crispy bacon or thinly-sliced prosciutto. But though our mouths may be watering, our minds realize that meat has its drawbacks—everything from potential health repercussions to negative environmental impacts to animal welfare concerns. As a result, even though Americans still say meat is their preferred protein, plant-based proteins are gaining ground.

According to recent data from market research firm Nielsen, only 19 percent of Americans say they regularly consume plant-based proteins compared to the 78 percent who say they regularly eat meat. However, the same survey says the difference between those two numbers is set to shrink with 22 percent of Americans saying they plan to eat less meat and 15 percent saying they plan to eat more legumes, nuts and seeds.

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Meanwhile, 39 percent of those surveyed said they were trying to eat more plant-based foods in general. As a result, plant-based proteins are "are providing growth opportunity to manufacturers who are looking into investing and innovating in this space," Isabel Morales, consumer insights manager for Nielsen Canada, told FoodNavigator-USA.

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However, don't declare meat dead yet. "Even though consumption of plant-based protein options is increasing, meat is not about to disappear from our grocery shopping list any time soon," Morales stressed. And actually, some meat categories are continuing to grow: Specifically, 19 percent of Americans said they want to eat more fish and seafood—which could potentially signal pescetarianism as a growing movement?

But regardless of what people are eating, one trend seems to be true for all categories: Shoppers are getting away from processed food and are seeking out claims like "antibiotic free," "no artificial preservatives" and "all natural."

"Consumers are returning to basics," Morales also stated. "More natural ingredients and less processed food options are some of the attributes consumers are gravitating towards."

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