The Rise of the Part-Time Vegetarian: Innovating in Response to a New Food and Beverage Trend
If you grew up in the United States, there’s a good chance you heard the following at the dinner table: Eat your vegetables. The ironic thing is that even as adults, we don’t escape these words. Our personal physicians, other health professionals, even the media—everyone reminds us to eat more vegetables. In fact, many experts recommend upping our intake of vegetables to battle various health problems, ranging from the so-called emperor of maladies known as cancer to our national epidemic of obesity.
Health issues aren’t the only reason to eat more vegetables, though. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently recommended that we eat less meat for eco-friendly reasons. Raising the number of cows, pigs and other livestock required to sustain our national demand for meat is taking a toll on the environment.1 Along with an interest in animal welfare, improving health and sustainability have prompted more than one person to turn vegetarian. But as someone who’s been friends with numerous people who’ve tried to adopt a meatless diet, I’m very familiar with how difficult maintaining such a lifestyle can be.
A Food and Beverage Alternative to the Vegetarian Diet
It turns out there’s a middle ground for people who want the benefits of being a vegetarian without having to give up meat completely. Flexitarians are part-time vegetarians. Rather than a diet characterized by removing meat, theirs is one about adding meat occasionally. This trend isn’t confined to the United States, either. People in several countries are also reducing their meat intake and replacing it with other sources of protein. The practice is seen especially in people under 30 and over 70.2 Not a surprise since one group is largely concerned about health benefits while the other is growing more conscientious about our impact on the planet.
Food and beverage companies can tap into this demographic’s preferences and turn them to their advantage.3 For example, beans and nuts are touted as alternate protein sources. Firms can develop products that use these two foods as a basis. What about releasing dried green beans as a snack? Having sampled dried green beans myself, they’re reminiscent of veggie chips. They have the same consistency and crunch. Plus, they have novelty working in their favor. I certainly wouldn’t have tried them if my curiosity hadn’t gotten the better of me. Or, on the nuts side, what about creating a line of flavored nut snack products? Savory, sweet or spicy—creative flavors are sure to attract consumers.
The same logic can be applied to other sources of protein. As an example, one of the biggest complaints about tofu is its consistency and taste. But what if you change the texture through drying or another form of processing? Perhaps add a flavoring we typically associate with meat such as barbecue sauce? Tofu then becomes something more familiar and people are more likely to give it a try.
Food and Beverage Firms Can Use an ELN to Develop Flexitarian-Friendly Options
Creating food and beverage products geared toward flexitarians has another benefit. They won’t appeal to only flexitarians. Vegetarians and meat lovers working to incorporate more vegetables into their diet are also potential buyers. Some vegetarians, in particular, will appreciate meatless products that have flavors reminiscent of meat. Missing the taste of meat is a common reason former vegetarians stray from their diet.
Regardless of the approach food and beverage firms take, they will need the right tool to support their research. The number of variables they must track while making flexitarian-friendly products is endless. Taste, texture, additives—scientists have to ensure their research is well-managed and streamlined. One tool that could benefit their efforts is the electronic lab notebook (ELN), which has the following capabilities:
- Built-in tagging and indexing features that make searching through data easy and efficient.
- A cloud-based system that can be accessed at any time and from any location, supporting collaboration and making information-sharing between colleagues simple.
- Security controls that restrict access to only people with the proper credentials.
- Timestamps that track when information was altered, providing an audit trail and ensuring that intellectual property is protected.
Is your food and beverage firm interested in developing new products for people following a specific dietary lifestyle? Or do they simply wish to create innovative formulations for today’s health-conscious society? Then please contact us today to learn more about the BIOVIA Notebook, an ELN that supports research and development with its data management features, collaborative tools, and IP protection.
- “Flexitarians: Finding a middle ground on meat,” November 9, 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/health-and-fitness/health/20151109-flexitarians-finding-a-middle-ground-on-meat.ece ↩
- “Survey: Danes eating less meat,” December 7, 2015, http://cphpost.dk/news/survey-danes-eating-less-meat.html ↩
- “Top trends for food and beverage in 2016,” November 17, 2015, http://www.bevindustry.com/articles/88906-top-trends-for-food-and-beverage-in-2016 ↩