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Plant-Based has become a popular term among South-African consumers, retailers, and manufacturers, but what does Plant-Based mean to the consumer? Daymon carried out 3 consumer studies while aligning to published research and information, to better understand the South African Plant-Based consumer's perceptions and expectations. Our aim through this writing is to share some insights and knowledge we have gathered and critical considerations for Plant-Based in South Africa. This writing is a precursor to the publication of our detailed white paper on the same subject.

Defining the Plant-Based Consumer:

Segmenting consumers into specific lifestyles/diets is no easy task. The customers' flexibility to change between different lifestyles and the different interpretations of lifestyles are critical to this challenge. What’s been clear is that there have been shifts beyond diet and into complete lifestyle changes in recent years; and, to a natural extent, changes in the type of lifestyle evolution. A surprising 22% of customers mentioned following a Plant-Based diet/lifestyle, eating animal-derived products (and/or trying to reduce their intake thereof), while actively increasing their plant intake. 31% of consumers mentioned that they consider themselves omnivores: eating products from animal-derived origins, intrinsic to a large segment of the South African culture.

Furthermore, of the panel, 20% of customers identified as Flexitarian, 17% as Vegetarian, and 9% as Vegan. These numbers are focussed on LSM 7-10 and maybe diluted when encompassing all LSMs - considering that South Africa is predominantly a meat-eating nation with vital cultural significance. While referencing various sources and our research to clarify the confusion, we created a model to determine how this may look in the South African environment from a consumer’s understanding or definition. 

While Plant-Based, Vegetarian, and Vegan often gets used interchangeably, they are different in reality. In our aim to demystify the terms, the below model showcases the relationship of the various lifestyles. A keynote is that Vegetarian and Vegan consumers focus on excluding animal-derived ingredients. In contrast, consumers who follow a Plant-Based lifestyle aim to actively include more plants into their diet to support their health and wellness.  

The research clarified that various customer segments want to claim and attribute 'Plant-Based' to their specific diets, plant-based being the buzzword for the last few years.
Vegetarian and Vegan consumers believed Plant-Based to contain no animal-derived ingredients, whereas 'omnivores,' Plant-Based consumers, and Flexitarians agreed that Plant-Based food could contain animal-derived ingredients, as long as the product's main ingredient was from plants (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds). 

This underlying difference in definition poses a challenge to retailers, "how do we correctly develop, address, and market Plant-Based, Vegan and Vegetarian items?" Going one way, could speak to one but alienate others – which is the right one to back, and how should it show up? To unpack potential solutions, refer to our white paper. 

At the core, a Plant-Based lifestyle is flexible, focused on inclusion, and accommodating; it is about:

  • Actively eating more plants 
  • Accommodating different food choices
  • Aiming to eat less animal-derived products by attempting to replace meat with Plant-Based options 
  • Still wanting to enjoy products from animal-derived ingredients 
  • Being willing to try different approaches and types of products
  • Still looking for familiar dishes and meals, but with plant-based instead of traditional animal proteins

Why Plant-Based?
Consumers who indicated that they choose to follow a Plant-Based lifestyle did so for various reasons, with health and nutrition as the key rationale. The consumer's focus on health was driven further by the COVID-19 pandemic, where consumers became more conscious of the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle. By incorporating more plants into their diet, consumers actively follow a nutrient-rich diet, supporting their notion of health benefits on nutritional products and 'better-for-you' items. By following a Plant-Based lifestyle, consumers believe that their choices may benefit the environment, a benefit supported mainly by Vegetarian and Vegan consumers, due to lower reliance on animal-derived ingredients, which is associated with higher carbon emissions and animal welfare. 

Barriers to following a Plant-Based diet

The move towards a Plant-Based diet has increased in popularity over the past few years, with 42% of consumers mentioning that they have started following a more Plant-Based lifestyle since the beginning of 2021. However, concerns and barriers may lead to new customers who may want to enter a Plant-Based lifestyle not to do so. Key considerations that consumers had on following a Plant-Based diet included: 

  • Cultural concerns: Standing out in a 'meat-eating culture,' not being able to participate
  • Dull & Difficult: Plant-based products are perceived to be tedious or difficult to make
  • Health: Plant-Based is not as healthy as thought due to heavy processing
  • Allergens: Allergens are prevalent in products made from nuts and seeds
  • Pricing: It is expensive to follow a plant-based lifestyle, especially for a family
  • Ingredients: Concern on the use of soya and their perception of potential health concerns

Retailers, brands, and manufacturers need to be aware of these concerns as they embark on a journey not only to sell but grow their Plant-Based offer. Consumers are looking for brands they can trust to offer them more than just a product aligned with their values.

Customer Expectations on Plant-Based

To capitalize on the Plant-Based opportunity, market players need to understand the consumers' expectations from Plant-Based products. Consumers have different shopping behaviors and expect retailers to cater to their needs, understand their needs, and ease their experience. Consumers are demanding, and tending to all their needs can be difficult. However, when it comes to winning Plant-Based, consumers have mentioned that they want:

  • Great tasting product
  • Quality products, made from quality ingredients
  • Products made with fresh and vibrant vegetables
  • Products beyond a pure health focus, also aiming at better-for-you products.
  • Clear labelling that conveys the message on ingredients (e.g., made with 60% butternut) and highlights that it is Vegan or Vegetarian.
  • Pricing naturally remains a crucial factor and consideration, especially for the price-sensitive South African consumer.

All these will be critical to driving an evident message building trust with consumers, not only from retailers but brands and manufacturers too.

Blurb: The evolution of Plant-Based beyond Vegetarian and Vegan is clear, with customers mentioning I'm trying to move towards a more Plant-Based diet: 90% Plant-Based 10% meat", and "We have minimum two plant-based meals per week (supper)" showing that this is a conscious choice in the active inclusion of Plants in their diet. 

The future of Plant-Based in South-Africa

Although the Plant-Based market grows from a minimal base, it is a crucial innovation driver and strategic pillar for many in the food retailing industry. Consumer needs and expectations are evolving, and as such, retailers and manufacturers need to pave the way forward by providing customers with products speaking to their needs and exciting them. There is an opportunity to steer and guide consumers while appealing to more consumers by building the narrative around Plant-Based and focusing on a Vegetarian and Vegan assortment.

With consumers adopting a Plant-Based lifestyle more than before, a conscious decision to live healthier, and expanding food experience, retailers and manufacturers can tap into these opportunities by addressing the consumer's needs and addressing the barriers from consumers wary of buying into Plant-Based consumers and advocates. 
Consider beyond the product by looking at how you can market the product in-store and online, using POS messaging to guide customers, unique ticketing where there are plant-based alternatives, and even online indicators in the assortment on Plant-Based products and easing the online shopping experience. 

Market players need to ask: “What shape and form will plant-based take in our business?” whether in retail or manufacturing.
For more detail on the Plant-Based consumer in South Africa, where we expand on the Plant-Based consumer, health considerations, and addressing merchandising, assortment expectations, and strategic solutions, please refer to our White Paper which will launch on 15 March 2022.

Customer Sample:

  • Quantitative Research: (LSM 7 – 10, n = 1000)
  • Qualitative Research: (Group 1: LSM 7 – 10, n = 9, Group 2: LSM 7 – 10, n = 10) 

About Daymon

Globally Daymon is known for building brands, with our key focus on building Private Brands.  We are the only solution provider that influences all aspects of Private Brand development, from strategy to execution to consumer engagement. 

Our unique approach helps retailers and brands set themselves apart — boosting brand presence, category effectiveness, and speed to shelf. We offer a full suite of best-in-class brand development services, including Brand Strategy, Category Solutions, Business Intelligence, Analytics, Client Services, Sourcing, and Brand Engagement. For more information, visit the Daymon partner page here or visit

Roelien Havenga – Director Business Intelligence (Africa & Latin America) –  
Chrystle Dee Gray – Business Intelligence Analyst – 

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