The desire for plant-based and vegan items continues to grow. The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and The Good Food Institute (GFI) reported U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods increased 27% in 2020, making it a $7 billion market.
The two organizations said plant-based food sales grew by more than 25% in every U.S. census region and that 57% of households now purchase plant-based foods, up from 53% in 2019.
More recently, Tastewise, an AI-powered food intelligence service, released an alternative plant-based protein report for Q3 of 2021. The study showed that the plant-based meat market accounts for just 1.4% of the total retail meat market, but is worth $1.4 billion in the U.S., increasing by more than $430 million in sales from 2019 to 2020.
Consumers have been drawn to plant-based meats, such as Kroger’s pioneering Simple Truth Plant Based line, for sustainability and health reasons. In fact, in 2020, Kroger launched 53 new plant-based items to add to its portfolio and said 1.4 million households bought a plant-based Simple Truth product.
“The way we order, cook, and eat is already transforming in the face of a global pandemic, climate change, new technologies, and increased interest in health,” said Alon Chen, CEO at Tastewise, Chicago. “Today’s consumers require food and beverage that responds to their needs and provides solutions to their problems — from the personal to the planetary. Responding to the devastating advance in climate change, many companies are working to reduce the significant climate footprint of the animal-farmed meat industry by innovating ways to move away from animal meat. This increase in resources devoted to plant-based meat products, combined with consumer demands for real, versatile solutions, results in a timely shift in the way we consume food.”
Sausage and chicken are currently the two most popular plant-based meat options, with sausage alone making up 34% of all meat alternative consumption, according to the Tastewise study. Items that are on the rise as potential meat alternatives include lamb (+212% from last year), salami (+159%), charcuterie (+148%) and jerky (+85%). Of branded products specifically, beef/roast items, deli meats, and jerky are the least-tapped items, with chicken and patty options leading the way.
For store brands, the plant-based dairy trend is an opportunity to grow the category of dairy as a whole. Elizabeth Guthrie, senior director of product management for own brands at Albertsons, spoke about plant-based dairy alternatives at the recent Store Brands Industry Forum on Beverages, and how private labels are adapting to the new trends.
“Non-dairy alternatives aren’t only keeping customers in the dairy aisle, but they’re also bringing a new influx of new customers into the [dairy] category,” said Guthrie. “The innovation is really revitalizing the section. The explosion of plant-based alternatives are helping to appeal to such a broad range of customers to meet all the needs that they have. Store brands are leaders and innovators in this space, you’ll continue to see own brands adjust to meet changing consumer needs through different sizes, flavors and nutritional call-outs.”