This vegetable-facing metatrend was found in twice as many sources as the next most popular trend.
This suggests that consumers are looking for more vegetables in foods, and is now challenging food manufacturers to find new ways to deliver non-meat products.
In particular, Cheatham’s team identified widespread interest in the use of “vegan meats”, a growing popularity for sea vegetables, different applications for cauliflower—the most popular vegetable they saw cited—and purple veggies, “probably prompted by the internet’s love of the colour purple”.
In terms of social media and online reports, a “continuum” has developed that features vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivore foods.
“It doesn’t matter if the vegan population in a country is only 3-4%, people are eating somewhere along this continuum, and are shifting towards a sort of plant-based pattern… more fruits, more vegetables and more wholegrain,” she says.
“This is even the case if they choose to continue eating meat, which I think, realistically, many people will continue to do.”
But she cautions how vitally important it is for manufacturers of products like the Beyond Burger vegan patties, which are seen to “bleed” when cooked, to understand their target consumer.
“I feel as thought the attempt has been to make it so similar to a red meat burger with the bleeding that maybe it is a little over-engineered,” she says, suggesting that the blood-like appearance might put off some meat-free customers.
“There is a place and a space for this kind of product, but as people move from omnivore towards vegan, we must be mindful of what product we are really going for. How much engineering do we need or not need.”
Other trends highlighted include the “ricing” of cauliflower to make the vegetable look and act like rice, albeit with much higher phytonutrient content than standard rice. Vegetable juices and gazpachos, meanwhile, are also becoming a popular accompaniment to the “juicing” trend of recent years.