Meat alternatives are now much more than ‘fake meat’ — yes, they are vegan, but they evoke the real thing in creative, often uncompromising ways. Successful meat alternatives imitate the sensory experience of eating meat, giving consumers the texture and flavor they expect from the original. The category is experiencing substantial growth, yet our research shows that existing products often overlook the functional needs of a specific category of consumers. Read on for the insights that will give CPG executives, grocers and retailers a competitive advantage with these customers and more in a fast-moving market.

1. The market lacks meat alternatives that are specifically positioned for fitness consumers.

Opportunities abound for new, fitness-ready brands centered on low carb, high protein products. Plant-based foods already suit fit lifestyles; consumers use “fitness” as the 4th most common need for general plant-based products. “Fitness” currently ranks only 9th, however, when describing meat alternatives — even when they are plant-based.

2 . A consumer’s ‘vegan level’ is a key indicator of their needs, revealing 3 new distinct groups.

Experimental, Moderate and Strict vegan levels indicate consumer tastes and dietary requirements in the meat alternatives category. “Clean eating” is only #45 in importance for Experimental Vegans but is a strong #10 for Moderate Vegans, indicating different priorities between the groups .

3. Understanding consumer expectations from online data can shape the development and branding of new meat alternative products.

Consumers expect certain qualities from existing meat alternatives. Real-time analysis show that ‘spicy’ and ‘sweet’ are trending among meat alternative consumers; Tastewise AI shows the context of each descriptor – sweet potato with burger, spicy black bean patty – and gives deeper insight into consumer experience and expectations of specific ingredients.

4. Consumers look to established grocers, restaurants and retailers in the vegan food space for different, distinct needs.

Consumers commonly describe Whole Foods as ‘organic’ (the #4 ranked descriptor), aligning with the grocer’s reputation. However, consumers describe vegan restaurant chain by Chloe. as ‘organic’ much less (#15), revealing unexpected consumer attitudes and experiences. Tastewise AI uses data to examine behaviors once only understood through intuition, helping businesses to better understand both consumers and retailers and create more focused strategies.