PhotoSustainable, meat-free products are at the top of many consumers’ shopping lists, according to a new report. As a result, the prepared food market is poised to see a few changes.

Consumers’ growing preference for healthy swaps and ethical options are fueling new trends, including fresh and easy meal options, lab-grown meat, and “premiumized junk food.”

The core categories in prepared food (meat, fish, and seafood; pasta, noodles, and rice; prepared meals; savory deli food; soup; and meat substitutes) are shifting to combat consumers’ rising concern for the environment, industry experts say.

Veganism on the rise

The environmental impact of meat consumption continues to weigh heavily on many shoppers’ minds, perhaps driving an increase in the number of people who are saying ‘no’ to meat and ‘yes’ to plant-based proteins.

An estimated 6% of U.S. consumers now claim to be vegan (up from just 1% in 2014).

The market is shifting to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly, cruelty-free options by rolling out meat-free product substitutes. Lab-grown meat may also be on the horizon.

Cruelty-free cultured “chicken,” the brainchild of a group of social-savvy tech teams, is expected to hit the market by 2022. The technology will even allow consumers to try meat based on rare wild animals, such as panda.

Top trends

Other trends impacting the prepared food industry in 2017 include:

  • Premiumized junk food. Food categories that are traditionally touted as unhealthy are being infused with high-quality ingredients in order to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
  • Healthy swaps. In light of rising demand for clean eating and food label transparency, the prepared food market is seeing an influx of alternative prepared foods with enhanced health benefits.
  • Fresh and easy options. Meal kits are helping to meet demand for food that is at once convenient, fresh, and loaded with natural ingredients.

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