Food habits and trends are evolving just as quickly as fashion, exercise and other social movements. In today’s culture, consumers place value in keeping up with these trends, especially if they have a positive impact on their own health or the health of the planet. However, people don’t want to compromise flexibility or choice when it comes to what they eat. Enter: flexitarianism.
What is flexitarianism? How does it compare with veganism and vegetarianism?
Vegans refrain from consuming all foods derived from animals, including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs and honey.
Vegetarians avoid animal proteins such as meat, poultry and seafood, and animal-based products including, but not limited to, stocks, broths and powders. They may consume some animal and dairy products such as milk, eggs, cheese and honey.
Flexitarians fall somewhere between vegetarian and animal protein groups. Flexitarians are an inclusive group that limits or substitutes animal protein in their diets.
What influences these groups?
Observing the dietary habits of each of the three groups revealed that flexitarians tend to be closely aligned with the beliefs and behaviors of non-animal protein eaters. However, generational shifts, societal norms, time constraints and globalized taste in cuisines also significantly influence how individuals cook. Many flexitarians even strongly agree that they cook differently than their parents, with 22% agreeing they can cook as well as or better than their parents. Age, motivation to cook and current trends are additional determinants of the products and communication tactics that will resonate most with the flexitarian audience.
What does the flexitarian population look like?
- Fifty-six percent of flexitarians identify as female, while 44% identify as male.
- People ages 44+ are 50% more likely (6%) to identify as flexitarians than those under 25 (4%).
- As emerging trends are typically led and followed by younger generations, it’s interesting to note that the majority of the flexitarian population is middle-aged or older.
- People who identify as non-white are 60% more likely to identify as flexitarian, with 9% identifying as flexitarian versus 5% of white people.
- Sixteen percent of flexitarians are divorced.
- Approximately 9% of divorcees identify as flexitarian, which is about 40% greater than other relationship segments (single, married, living with a partner, widowed). This may indicate that these individuals are looking for alternative approaches to habits and practices – including food consumption.
What are flexitarian behavior trends?
Flexitarians are dynamic and constantly shifting. More than half of the flexitarian population (54%) greatly enjoys trying different types of foods (compared to 43% of vegetarians and 34% of animal protein consumers). Flexitarians might order a cheeseburger for lunch and make vegan chicken nuggets for dinner. They’re thrilled by the idea of trying something new. Because of this, 50% of flexitarians and 54% of non-animal protein consumers appreciate brands that challenge the status quo (as opposed to the 30% of animal protein consumers who say this aspect is not important at all).
In alignment with flexitarians’ desire to experiment, 64% of flexitarians and 63% of vegetarians enjoy trying new foods, recipes and products more than they did two years ago, while the animal protein group has remained about the same. In the past couple of years, there has been a dramatic increase in product offerings for flexitarian, vegan and vegetarian diets – with everything from plant-based burger patties to cauliflower steaks. These options may have enabled the 70% of flexitarians and 74% of vegans/vegetarians who are eating healthier than they were two years ago.
For most flexitarians, convenience is key. Sixty-four percent of flexitarians are using more convenient food options than they were two years ago, and premade meals, meal kits and other grab-n-go options are on the rise. Flexitarians and vegetarians are also more likely than animal protein eaters to order from restaurant apps and online retailers offering grocery delivery.
What does this mean for brands?
Flexitarians and non-animal protein consumers are foodies at the forefront of trends and new diet options. In fact, 66% of flexitarians and 71% of the non-animal protein group consider themselves foodies versus just 27% of the animal protein group. Overall, consumers in these respondent groups value brands that account for consumer interests and show they care through transparency, innovation and eco-friendliness. Ultimately, new products and new ways of enjoying their favorite foods will keep these groups engaged and brand loyal.
Want to flex with the flexitarians? Here’s how:
- Be intentional. This population places more significance on brand stories and current trends than the other groups, so the more that brands authentically share their story through packaging, websites and social media, the more engagement they’ll receive.
- Provide transparency. With so many new offerings on the market, companies that remove barriers by making health information more accessible to consumers are performing well against competitors.
- Sixty-three percent of vegetarians and 57% of flexitarians are more trusting of the food industry than animal protein consumers at 36%. This contrast may be due to flexitarians and vegetarians actively seeking out ethical brands and doing more research on the foods they eat than animal protein groups.
- Innovate. Because the rise in flexitarianism is partially due to increased consumer attention and education about the foods people eat, brands exploring ways to reinvent their current offerings with unique twists on classic items, new ways to enjoy plant-based products, unique flavor profiles or completely new items are winning flexitarian loyalty.
- Protect the planet. Flexitarians, vegans and vegetarians are often looking for brands that align with their values. Sustainability practices like eco-friendly shipping and the use of environmentally friendly packaging rank in the top three priorities for both flexitarians and vegetarians, while ranking in the bottom priorities for animal protein consumers. Flexitarians and non-animal protein consumers also prefer organic and natural brands.
- Adapt. More than ever before, consumers expect flexibility in everything from their work environments to social offerings to their diets. Flexitarianism blurs the rigid line between veganism/vegetarianism and animal protein groups, and brands with offerings across the protein spectrum appeal most to this growing group.
Want to learn more? FoodThink from Signal Theory is in constant pursuit of uncovering insights about America’s relationship with food. Check out the rest of our FoodThink articles and white papers. Or contact Signal Theory to chat about all things food and food production. We look forward to hearing from you!