Last week NPD’s Food Group sent out a news release on the double-digit growth of plant-based protein consumption in- and away-from-home. The release prompted a call from a reporter who was writing about the debate surrounding the formal definitions of “meat” and “milk” in light of the increasing number of meat and milk alternatives in the marketplace.
Farmers see the alternative foods, which are primarily plant-based, as a threat and they want the federal government to restrict words like meat, milk, and cheese to products that come from animals. The federal government said that “in light of marketplace trends and the latest nutritional sciences” it is considering formally defining the terms. Some of the concern is that consumers will be confused and will think the alternative foods are the same as animal-based meat or milk. I think we need to give today’s hyper-informed consumer a little more credit.
The debate about what constitutes “meat” or “milk” misses the main point. It’s all about protein! Sixty percent of Americans tell us they seek more protein in their diet so we shouldn’t be surprised that they are embracing more sources of protein in all forms. Rather than worry about what we call it, the opportunity on both the plant and animal side of the equation is to understand the occasions and motivations that are driving protein demand and position their products as a solution to consumers’ quest for more protein.