Sustainability is a growing concern for Canadian consumers, and one way that is manifesting itself is through an increasing desire to steer clear of meat — or at least to have the choice to do so.
A new survey from Impossible Foods conducted by members of the Angus Reid Forum, found that one-quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians have significantly reduced their meat consumption over the course of the pandemic, and another 26 per cent are open to the idea.
The reasons are manifold, ranging from health benefits to animal welfare concerns, and beyond.
75 per cent of Canadians feel they’re well-informed about the environmental impact of meat. The meat industry accounts for nearly 60 per cent of all greenhouse gases from food production, according to a recent report from The Guardian.
There are certain divides, too.
One is gender: men are nearly twice as likely as women to say they have absolutely no desire to reduce their meat consumption (30 per cent vs. 17 per cent, respectively). In addition, one in three (31 per cent) women feel guilty about eating animal products compared to only 14 percent of men.
Age would appear to be another separator, with the generally cited opinion being that the younger generation is more motivated to go for plant-based products over meat-based products. However, the survey actually found that only 23 per cent of Canadians 18-34 have reduced their meat consumption in the last 18 months, whereas 28 per cent of Canadians 55+ have done so.
Young Canadians do appear to be more impressionable when it comes to the trends of plant-based consumption, though. One quarter (26 per cent) of young Canadians said social media has informed their eating habits during the pandemic, and 42 per cent believe social media has impacted more Canadians to adopt a plant-based diet.
For many consumers, though, the options to go more plant-based are too limited.
Nearly one-third (30 per cent) of people considering or open to reducing meat consumption cited a lack of viable plant-based meat alternatives as one of the most significant barriers to eating a more plant-based diet.
Barriers to adoption for younger Canadians include that 35 per cent find it challenging to find adequate plant-based meat alternatives when grocery shopping, with one in five (21 per cent) citing cost as the largest barrier to adopting a more plant-based diet.
Cost is certainly an increasing factor. The cost of one pound of ground beef rose 7.8 per cent from September 2020 to September 2021. That is a significant cost burden when the average Canadians’ meat consumption per year is a whopping 160 kg (over 350 lbs).
Overall, one in four (25 per cent) of Canadians agree that it’s challenging to find adequate plant-based meat alternatives when grocery shopping.
Companies are trying to correct that situation. One of those is Impossible Foods, which is looking to expand access to better plant-based products by increasing its availability in Loblaws stores and select Costco stores across Canada, increasing its retail footprint in the country by nearly 40 per cent in the back half of 2021.
Plant-based Impossible Food products such as the Impossible Burger now offered by numerous quick-service chains, use 96 per cent less land, 87 per cent less water, and 89 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cow beef.
If food producers, restaurants, and retailers are to satisfy the ongoing demand for reduced meat and increased plant-based consumption, they must work to remove the barriers and increase access to those products.