Plant-based meat biggest winner of alternative protein boom in 2020, achieves US$1.4bn in sales

GLOBAL – The plant-based meat category experienced a boom in 2020 thanks to a raging pandemic that impacted supply chains of conventional meat leading to consumers discovering new brands on store shelves.

According to a recently released SPINS data by the Good Food Institute and the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA), the Plant-based meat had US$1.4 billion in sales, growing 45% overall compared to 2019 and making up 2.7% of all U.S. retail packaged meat sales.

Refrigerated plant-based meat sales saw the highest growth percentage, up 75% in 2020, according to the SPINS data.

SPINS says that plant-based meat is  becoming much more of a force in the meat section, with 18% of all households purchasing it — up from 14% in 2019.

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It also noted that Plant-based meat has a high repeat rate, with 63% of consumers purchasing it multiple times.

Shelving, supply has impact on growth

Apart from the pandemic driven shift towards plant based foods, SPINS attributes this high growth of plant-based meat to many retailers starting to shelve it differently.

Last summer, Kroger and the PBFA found that plant-based meat sells about 23% better when it’s placed next to traditional meat.

There are also more products available. Impossible Foods saw a retail explosion in 2020, with its Impossible Burgers going from being available in about 150 stores nationwide at the beginning of the year to about 20,000 stores today.

Nestlé has also been concentrating on growing its plant-based options, both through new plant-based meat products and by making plant-based meat versions of some of its frozen entrees.

Plant-based meat companies also worked hard in the past year to come close to price parity with animal meat, which many in the industry have said is an important step to make consumers want to buy it.

Plant-based foods record sales worth US$7B

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The pandemic-driven boom did not just impact the plant-based meat category but reverberated throughout the entire alternative proteins industry.

According to the SPINS data, plant-based food retail sales jumped 27% in 2020 to record sales worth US$7 billion.

To put it in context, sales figures climbing more than twice as fast as the 11% growth the segment achieved in both 2019 and 2018.

Plant-based milk, which is the largest category in the segment, also saw great sales growth in 2020, recording a 20% increase in dollar sales.

Other plant-based dairy and related products also saw large sales increases, and are collectively worth about US$2 billion, according to SPINS.

The fastest growth was in plant-based eggs, which saw a 168% increase — nearly 10 times the rate of conventional eggs.

The substantial gains made in 2020 are expected to stay on even post-Covid as big companies including Nestlé, Danone and Unilever all plan for plant-based to become a larger part of their sales.

Investment firm UBS predicted in 2019 that plant-based food would be an US$85 billion industry by 2030, and these 2020 sales figures show how that forecast might come true.

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