A move toward flexitarian diets may not be the doomsday originally predicted for traditional animal proteins – especially for the poultry industry.

“Eating meat is still the norm, but aspirationally, there are a lot of people who feel like they might be a little less of a meat eater in the future,” Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics LLC, said during Where’s the Meat? Understand What Consumers Want in Plant-Based Protein.

“Where we see the most growth is in that flexitarian bucket."

Currently, 14% of U.S. consumers eat a flexitarian diet. However, this eating approach has the potential for huge growth – 22% of respondents said they plan to move toward a flexitarian diet in the future, according to data from Datassential.

Consumers who eat a flexitarian diet still consume meat but are trying to cut back, typically citing health, planetary health, animal welfare or social responsibility reasons.

The good news is that flexitarian diets are not about eliminating meat. While 31% of flexitarians want to decrease their intake of red meat, the same percentage want to increase their poultry intake, Roerink explained.

Consumers are also beginning to realize that the proposed health benefits of plant-based proteins currently on the market may be overrated. Although meat alternatives are typically viewed as healthier than animal products, some dieticians have pointed out that the amounts of sodium and saturated fat found in plant-based burgers are the same as those made of beef.

An opportunity for poultry to appeal flexitarians

Now, we all know that what consumers say they want and what they actually do can vary widely. But this seems like a real opportunity for brands to promote the many benefits of poultry to consumers – especially since many consumers already perceive poultry as a healthier alternative to other meats. Marketing efforts should highlight the healthiness of poultry and brands should find ways to highlight plant-forward recipes that feature chicken, turkey or eggs as the main protein.

Blended meats are another alternative that may feel healthier to consumers than traditional proteins. 

In these products, meat products are combined with plant proteins. Traditionally, you see blended burgers. But why not turkey burgers or blended chicken products? These could have real appeal to families looking to add more vegetables to meals – many of whom are now looking at a possible third year of remote school and will be continuing to prepare the majority of their meals at home.