Survey | Alternative Proteins

Plant-based nutrition on the rise

Pulses are a plant-based protein source whose culinary potential is currently being explored with great vigour and curiosity by consumers, chefs and the food industry.
IMAGO / agefotostock
Pulses are a plant-based protein source whose culinary potential is currently being explored with great vigour and curiosity by consumers, chefs and the food industry.

Half of European consumers have significantly reduced their meat consumption. This was the result of a joint survey by ProVeg, Innova Market Insights, the University of Copenhagen and Ghent University. German consumers are second only to Romanians in the list of meat abolitionists - for the nutrition organization ProVeg, this is a good starting point for Germany as a location for innovation.

Across Europe, the Smart Protein Project survey registers a clear shift toward plant-based diets: 46 percent of consumers have significantly reduced their meat consumption in the past year. At 51 percent, the figure in Germany is above this average.

Food quality up, emissions down

At present, 82 percent of food-related Co2 emissions in Europe are attributable to animal products. However, studies are raising hopes: A switch to a plant-based diet could halve personal diet-related emissions. Flexitarian diets are already followed by 30 percent of consumers surveyed, meaning they are reducing their consumption of foods of animal origin, the study found. The proportion of vegans or vegetarians was highest in Germany in this study at 10 percent.

More than 7,500 people in 10 European countries took part in the survey. The questions related to their attitudes towards plant-based foods, their trust in these products, their consumption habits and their main reasons for their food choices. The results are available on a country-by-country basis.

The values determined for Germany

  • More than half of the respondents (51 %) stated that they had already significantly reduced their meat consumption.
  • 2 out of 5 participants (41 %) see themselves in a position to reduce their meat consumption in the near future.
  • Around 1 in 3 (32%) would also like to reduce their consumption of dairy products.

Consumer opinions on plant-based products

  • Over half of respondents (55%) cited price as the biggest barrier to switching to plant-based products. However, 1 in 4 (26%) said they would be willing to pay a higher price for plant-based than animal-based meat.
  • 43% of respondents would try plant-based alternatives with the taste and texture of animal meat, and 41% would buy them regularly.
  • Respondents particularly wanted plant-based mince and burger patties (32% each) and chicken breasts and sausages (30% each) in supermarkets.
  • Plant-based fish fingers (27%) and smoked salmon (22%) were also high on the wish list.
  • In terms of plant-based cheese, respondents particularly wanted fresh cheese (32%), sliced cheese (32%) and mozzarella (31%).
  • The most commonly consumed plant-based products are milk (28%), yogurt (21%), poultry and beef (20% each, all at least weekly).
  • Potatoes, rice and lentils are the preferred main ingredients for plant-based foods.

"Consumers are showing the way: they want even more and even better plant-based foods. The demand is there, now the supply should also grow," says Dr. Kai-Brit Bechtold about the results. As Senior Consumer Research Scientist ProVeg she says: "Our diet is changing at great speed, the demand for innovative protein alternatives is increasing. With climate goals in mind, this trend gives us hope."

Raise innovation potential

From the results of the Smart Protein Project survey and the high approval ratings of German consumers for plant-based nutrition, ProVeg Managing Director Matthias Rohra derives an innovation appeal to political decision-makers: "The next government should urgently focus more sharply on research and development around sustainable proteins. Germany has the potential to be an innovation location, and we need to make use of it."
Smart Protein Project
The Smart Protein project is funded by the EU with €10 million. The aim is to develop a new generation of foods that are cost-effective, resource-efficient and nutrient-rich. Plant-based meat, seafood, dairy and bakery products, among others, will be developed from alternative protein sources such as pulses and by-products of beer and pasta production. The full report of the project can be found here.