Consumer Trends

The rise in plant-forward eating continues post-pandemic

A recent survey finds that health, money, animal welfare and environmental concerns are pushing consumers to eat more produce and less meat.
Fresh fruits and veggies
Photograph: Shutterstock

The increase in home cooking during COVID fueled an increase in healthier, plant-forward diets, according to a recent survey by Packaged Facts, the Rockville, Md.-based market researcher. And that trend is continuing post-pandemic.

Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents are still eating more fresh produce than they did before the pandemic. But most of those eaters are reducing—not eliminating—meat, opting for a flexitarian lifestyle, Packaged Facts May 2022 National Online Consumer Survey revealed.

While health, animal welfare and environmental issues are driving the trend, inflation is also playing a part. The company’s subsequent report, Vegan, Vegetarian and Flexitarian Consumers, found that high meat and dairy prices and fluctuations in supply have also led to a change in consumers’ food buying habits.  

At times, the cost of plant-based meats and milk was lower than that of their traditional counterparts. But despite the abundance of and intense marketing push for meat and dairy analogs, consumers are also gravitating toward lentils, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to create healthier, more sustainable and less expensive meals.

Clean labels are more important to plant-forward eaters, too, said the report. Some of the plant-based substitutes are highly processed, although new products with simpler ingredient lists are coming through the pipeline.

Meat reducers are also seeking cleaner, healthier products when eating out at restaurants or getting takeout. But fewer consumers make that a priority with restaurant food, as meals away from home are an opportunity to splurge. 

The May 2022 survey polled 1,799 adults balanced for age, gender, geographic region, race/ethnicity, income and other demographics.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


There's plenty happening at the high end of the pricing barbell, too

Reality Check: Decadent meal choices are also proliferating, for a lot more than $5.


Reassessing McDonald's tech deals from 2019

The Bottom Line: The fast-food giant’s decision to end its drive-thru AI test with IBM is the latest pullback away from a pair of technology acquisitions it made five years ago.


Trend or fad? These restaurant currents could go either way

Reality Check: A number of ripples were evident in the business during the first half of the year. The question is, do they have staying power?


More from our partners