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While the growth of plant-based products continues to explode onto grocery store shelves, there is mixed acceptance among shoppers.

Plant-based alternatives show promise but repeat purchases lag

FMI research explores who is buying in this category and why


  • 33% of consumers are trying to select nutritious and healthy food choices “a lot” of the time, while 48% put in the effort “some” of the time
  • About one-in-10 consumers classify themselves as vegan or vegetarian, while another one-in-10 claim to be flexitarians
  • 42% of consumers put at least some effort into selecting plant-based food options

The grocery industry is continuing to explore plant-based alternatives, however, understanding the landscape can be confusing according to new research from FMI — The Food Industry Association.

While the growth of plant-based products continues to explode onto grocery store shelves, there is mixed acceptance among shoppers. There are many plant-based meat and dairy (milk, yogurts, cheeses, and dessert) alternatives, and even poultry and seafood plant-based items are making an appearance. 

However, FMI reports that the term “plant-based” is not clearly defined, even in the health and nutrition world. 

Additionally, there is no regulatory definition for “plant-based,” although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of developing guidance documents addressing the labeling of various plant-based products. The FDA is expected to publish draft guidance addressing the labeling of plant-based alternatives to other animal-derived foods, including meat and poultry, by the end of 2023.

“In general, the concept is all about eating more foods from plants and less food from animals, but not necessarily eliminating things like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy altogether.” 

For some people, plant-based can lead to a vegetarian or vegan way of eating, but for most, this concept opens the door for a more flexible approach that can be personalized, sustained, and potentially proven very beneficial to overall health and well-being, FMI said. 

Other key findings from the FMI report include: 

  • Taste is the most frequently mentioned reason for repeat consumption and the leading
  • barrier to trial of plant-based alternative foods and beverages
  • Curiosity has generated the trial of many plant-based alternative foods and beverages as shoppers are seeking variety as they continue to prepare their own meals and eat at home
  • As many shoppers continue to put at least some effort into making nutritious and healthy food choices, plant-based foods and beverages are strongly associated with healthy eating, frequently cited as a reason to try plant-based alternative foods 
  • About four-in-10 shoppers have to consider allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities when shopping for food, which impacts trial and continued consumption of plant-based alternative foods and beverages among some consumers
  • Shoppers who are regular consumers of plant-based alternative foods and beverages represent a lucrative segment of shoppers as they are younger (Gen Z and Millennials), have larger households with children, are well-educated, have higher household incomes, spend more on groceries, and frequently shop for groceries online
  • There is shopper confusion when defining what is a plant-based alternative food or beverage 
  • Taste, along with overall health and nutritional benefits, are the top reasons for choosing to eat plant-based alternative foods and beverages
  • Key product characteristics of taste, not meeting expectations, and texture were common reasons cited among those who have tried these plant-based
  • alternative foods and beverages for not continuing to eat them
  • Another reason for not continuing was the cost of these products
  • The majority of those who are regular plant-based alternative food and beverage consumers say they will increase their future consumption of these
  • products
  • Shoppers were divided as to where in the store plant-based meat alternatives should be merchandised

Less than one-half of shoppers expressed a willingness to try new and different types of plant-based food and beverage alternatives. Those shoppers who are already consuming some plant-based food and beverage alternatives are much more likely to try new and different types of plant-based alternatives (64%). 

About the research

The Power of Plant-Based Foods and Beverages 2023 consumer survey was programmed in Qualtrics to be administered online to a nationally representative

sample of 1,062 U.S. grocery shoppers who are 18 years of age or older. The survey was conducted between July 21 and July 27, 2023. There is a maximum sampling error of+/-3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The report also leveraged one-on-one interviews with select participants from the consumer survey, interviews with a group of select retailers and manufacturers, and plant-based sales data and insights curated for this report by NIQ.


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