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Diet trends address consumers’ health, sustainability concerns

Food options for both ketogenic and flexitarian diets exploded this year following the rise of consumer demand for more healthy choices as well as food produced sustainably.

4 min read

Consumer Insights

Diet trends address consumers’ health, sustainability concerns


Food and beverage trends this year have been overwhelmingly driven by US consumers being more health-conscious, as well as increased public awareness of how food production affects the environment. Customers are looking to food manufacturing companies to address both health and sustainability concerns.

Products that align with a ketogenic diet can capitalize on these trends to bring customers food that better serves their health journey. Similarly, plant-based foods are often touted as healthier than their meat or dairy counterparts, and these foods can promote companies’ sustainable production practices that don’t involve animal products. An Accenture research study found that more than half of US millennials are on a specific diet, such as keto, plant-based, or veganism, with many citing health, ethical and environmental concerns as their reasons for following their particular diet.

Ketogenic products

The ketogenic diet directs people to consume food and beverages that are low in carbohydrates but high in fat. Keto has emerged as a popular diet choice for consumers looking to improve their health and lose weight by replacing carb intake with fat, causing the body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis. Online platform Reddit’s No. 2 health and wellness interest community in 2019 was the keto group. E-commerce food retailer Thrive Market has a filter feature that allows shoppers to search for products that suit a specific diet such as keto.

Producers have adapted to meet the needs and wants of keto dieters by introducing products that are marketed and labeled specifically as keto-friendly. Ice cream brand Enlightened, for example, introduced a keto line of products this year. “Honestly, keto is something our consumers and customers brought to us really more than us bringing to them,” Michael Shoretz, CEO of Enlightened’s parent company Beyond Better Foods, told Food Business News.

Beverage company Reed’s also had its zero-sugar variety of ginger beer verified as a ketogenic product by lifestyle organization Ketovangelist. Both Reed’s and Enlightened have used already-existing products to introduce new marketing that capitalizes on the keto craze to draw in a new consumer group based on health.

Plant-based foods for flexitarians

The number of plant-based food products has dramatically increased in recent years, and many of those products are not necessarily marketed toward vegans or vegetarians, but instead, companies are trying to attract flexitarian eaters. People on a flexitarian diet tend to avoid meat, but they occasionally do eat meat or fish, often for health-related or ethical reasons. These consumers consistently buy plant-based alternatives to traditional meat or animal products, with Nielsen reporting flexitarians make up 37% of meat alternative buyers.

Popular plant-based meat producers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have targeted flexitarians as a key consumer base, not just vegetarians and vegans. Impossible Foods was even found to be one of the fastest-growing brands of 2019 by market research firm Morning Consult, doubling its customer base in only a year. Several legacy food brands have also introduced their own lines of plant-based alternatives: Kellogg’s Incogmeato and Hormel’s Happy Little Plants. All of these companies have risen to meet consumer expectations that producers offer healthier choices and food made without animal products — i.e. food that is sustainably and ethically produced.

“Eighty-six percent of people that use these [plant-based] products also eat meat. They aren’t vegetarian or vegan. It’s about giving choice to consumers,” Darren Seifer, executive director of market research firm NPD Group, said to Bloomberg.

Will these diet trends last?

Registered dieticians believe keto is likely to remain a top diet trend in 2020. Plant-based foods ranked second in Innova Market Insights’ report on trends to watch for next year. Both keto dieters and flexitarians are expected to have lasting power, demonstrating that these diets are so much more than passing fads.

These healthier food trends are a reflection of the popularity of these specific diets, but the trends also indicate a shift in overall consumer priorities and expectations. Producers marketing their foods as keto-certified or for flexitarians has been largely successful this year because the products cater to specific groups while also aligning with general consumer trends of seeking more socially responsible, healthy options.


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