The plant-based foods business is booming. Sales of plant-based foods are up 11% year-over-year, reaching a total of $4.5 billion last year, and retailers no longer see them as hyper-niche products relegated to small sections of the grocery store. Overall U.S. retail food dollar sales grew 2% last year, including both animal- and plant-based segments. Compared to two years ago, plant-based food sales are up 31%.
Caroline Bushnell, associate director of corporate engagement for the Good Food Institute says, “We are seeing these numbers grow as retailers make these merchandising shifts and taking them out of the sad vegetarians’ corner.”
Retail sales of plant-based meat alternatives were up 9.6% ($802.1 million) in the 52 weeks ending April 29, 2019, according to SPINS data released by the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based foods Association. About 37% of that growth ($212 million) came from higher-value “next generation refrigerated plant-based meat products.” The frozen variety was up a modest 2% to $582 million.
Dairy alternatives remain the most popular animal food substitutes, accounting for more than two-thirds of the entire plant-based market. The SPINS data shows plant-based milk (almond, soy and oat) now accounts for 13% of the entire fluid milk category.
“We are now at the tipping point with the rapid expansion of plant-based foods across the entire store,” said PBFA’s senior director of retail partnerships Julie Emmett.
Plant-based food marketers recognize the importance of shifting their product from the frozen food section to the fresh meat aisle. Consumers looking for a “center-of-the-plate” item are more likely to search in the meat case than the freezer, and a similar strategy of marketing plant-based milk in the refrigerated dairy case helped propel those products to a significant share of the fluid milk business.
At present, GFI and PBFA say U.S. household penetration of plant-based meat is 11.9%, meaning those consumers have purchased plant-based alternative proteins. By comparison, 37% of U.S. households have purchased plant-based milk.