The Continued Rise of the Flexitarian Diet

a white plate topped with meat and veggies, flexitarian

Gregory Banzon, chief operating officer of Century Pacific Food, has come to a decisive conclusion:

Grocers should target “flexitarian” consumers – those who only occasionally eat meat – because that movement “could be the future of health and wellness.

“It’s important to give these [flexitarian] consumers accessible options and showcase the benefits of incorporating plant-based foods into consumers’ diets and trying a flexitarian lifestyle,” said Banzon, who also serves as the executive vice president of Century Pacific, a global food processor.

Multiple studies suggest Banzon might be on to something. Recent Numerator research showed that 1 in 2 U.S. households are already buying plant-based foods, and 98% of consumers who buy plant-based protein alternatives also buy animal meat.

Additionally, the same study revealed that 72 million households in the U.S. are flexitarian.

Plus, a new type of consumer is emerging, as noted by a article: the “social omnivore” – a flexitarian who limits meat consumption to social settings (where peer pressure and/or menu restrictions make it tough to turn down meat).

A report from scientists with the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health suggests that a healthy and sustainable diet should contain no more than 98g of red meat per week, or 203g of protein.

As noted in a previous Food Institute article, many consumers no longer follow strict diets such as paleo or vegetarian, but prefer to pick and choose what suits them.

Pam Smith, RDN, told FI in 2022 that “flexitarian diets, which actively seek to include both plant and animal-based protein sources, have become a trendy topic within the food industry because of consumer interest in diets like ‘Meatless Monday,’ and the growing availability of plant-based options.”

The adventurous nature of flexitarian consumers opens the door to opportunities for brands to market plant-based products to the non-vegan demographic.

Food companies can take advantage of consumers’ desire to incorporate more plant-based products in their diets by meeting consumer demand for high-quality, complete protein made from familiar and clean plant-sourced ingredients such as mycelium/mushrooms, ancient grains, soy, and peas.

“Food businesses and retailers that have the means should introduce, or evolve, plant-based offerings,” Banzon told FI recently. “Targeting flexitarians and providing price accessible options for them will benefit both grocery retailers and consumers during this time of inflation and rising grocery prices.”

The Food Institute Podcast

Food price inflation has been a constant thorn over the past few years, but are we about to turn the corner toward greener pastures? Wells Fargo Chief Agricultural Economist Dr. Michael Swanson returned to The Food Institute Podcast to discuss emerging trends in food inflation and the changing dynamics between eating at home and eating out. Dr. Swanson also discusses agricultural impacts stemming from both drought and increased rainfall in different parts of the country.