More than half of Canadians - 53 percent - eat meat alternatives, according to data from market research company Mintel.
Almost a fifth - 18 percent - eat alternative products multiple times a week.
It seems many are motivated by health, with two in five Canadians (21 percent) agreeing that meat alternatives are healthier than meat.
The report says this data shows the meat alternative market 'extends well beyond consumers following plant-based diets' - only five percent of Canadians identify as vegetarian, with two percent saying they eat a vegan diet.
The report says the sector has seen massive growth in recent years.
According to Joel Gregoire, Associate Director, Canada Food and Drink Reports, at Mintel: "A testament to the growing popularity of meat alternatives, global meat substitute launches nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, growing 90 percent in the last five years, according to Mintel Global New Products Database [GNPD]."
He added: "Meat alternatives’ growing popularity is giving rise to innovation, and while new product development is currently low in Canada, the increase in global launch activity suggests there is opportunity to expand the category in the region given the fact that roughly half of Canadians claim to eat meat alternative products.
"In an effort to reach those consumers that are less open to eating meat alternatives, brands should focus on traditional product categories like burgers and poultry as an easy entry point, and a means to expand the category into areas such as hot dogs and deli meats."
The report cites taste as the 'largest barrier to eating meat alternatives'.
It adds: "The top reason consumers who don't eat meat alternatives say they don't eat them is because they prefer meat (69 percent), followed by not liking the taste of meat alternatives (42 percent).
"Price is also a barrier for some as one in five (20 percent) say they don’t use meat alternatives because they’re too expensive, rising to more than one third (34 percent) of those aged 18-24."
Less than a quarter (23 percent) of Canadians quizzed agreed that meat alternatives are a sufficient substitute for meat - with 16 percent saying these products taste as good as meat.
Nearly one third (31 percent) look for meat-like flavours and one quarter (24 percent) look for meat-like textures when purchasing meat alternatives.
PBN taste tested two high tech meat alternatives - the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.Subscribe to PBN's YouTube Channel here
Room for improvement
Joel Gregoire said: "There appears to be significant room to improve consumer perception of meat alternatives relative to meat. For those who don’t eat meat alternatives, blurring the line between meat and meat alternatives is crucial to winning over new converts.
"While few Canadians follow vegetarian or vegan diets, many do consume meatless products, suggesting that the true opportunity extends beyond those consumers who avoid meat, to those who love meat but may be looking for some healthy options.
"Meat alternatives that are indistinguishable from 'real meat' stand the best chance of realizing the category’s potential."
After taste and texture, a large percentage of consumers (40 percent) cited protein content as an important quality when buying meat alternatives.
Gregoire said: "As demand for protein in foods outside of meat and other animal-based products grows, the spectrum of proteins that consumers are interested in, or at least willing to eat, appears to be broadening, with many citing interest in emerging 'buzz-worthy' proteins ranging from insects to algae."