Number of U.S. consumers reducing consumption of animal-based products increasing, research shows; these 'semi-vegetarians' follow vegetarian diet part of the time but still eat some meat, dairy
November 23, 2011
– While the number of consumers who follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets in the U.S. is relatively small, research shows that the number of consumers who are reducing their consumption of animal-based products is on the rise.
These "occasional" vegetarians (also called flexitarians) can be categorized into two groups, semi-vegetarians and meat reducers. Semi-vegetarians follow a vegetarian diet part of the time, but still eat some meat and dairy products. Meat reducers are not trying to follow a vegetarian diet, but are just trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat. In the November 2011 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about how manufacturers are increasingly targeting these groups with better-tasting products, attractive packaging and product variety.
Due to the increasingly popular flexitarian lifestyle, large food manufacturers like Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, and others have acquired smaller vegetarian food producers or launched their own lines of vegetarian food products. Three-quarters of MorningStar Farms' consumers are flexitarians; therefore the company is constantly developing new flavors and products that appeal to these consumers.
In the past, processed vegetarian burgers were bland and tough, and usually only die-hard vegetarians were the targeted consumers. There are an increasing number of people who are interested in eating healthier or want to reduce their meat intake without sacrificing taste. Whereas today, updates in processing technologies, food flavors and sauces are making it possible for vegetarian food manufacturers to create foods with more meat-like textures, better flavor and convenience that are more appealing to flexitarian consumers.
Up until recently, soy and wheat protein were the main proteins used in vegetarian meal options. But today with so many people having soy and wheat protein allergies, vegetable protein, from sources such as peas, are being used. Beans and chickpeas are especially popular in vegetarian restaurant items as well.
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© 2011 Institute of Food Technologists