USA – Robust demand for plant-based foods is driving retail sales to new record high despite challenges associated with supply chain disruptions.

 According to research by the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA), The Good Food Institute (GFI) and SPINS, the total plant-based market value reached an “all-time high” of US$7.4 billion in 2021.  

The market value was bolstered by booming plant-based retail sales which grew three times faster than total retail sales. 

The report further noted that many plant-based categories outpaced conventional counterparts, further demonstrating their popularity among consumers.

Plant-based milk dominate sales

As the largest category in the plant-based space, plant-based milk now accounts for 16% of all retail milk sales, contributing to US$105 million.  

Sales grew 33% in the past three years to reach US$2.6 billion, while animal-based milk sales declined by 2% in 2021, a loss of about US$264 million. 

Almond milk is the category leader, accounting for 59% of the total category. Oat milk growth is the second-largest segment, making up 17% of category sales, up from only 0.5% in 2018. 

Plant-based meat, which grew 74% in the past three years, outpaced conventional meat by about three times with a repeat year of US%1.4 billion in sales.  

Traditional meat unit sales only grew 8% compared with the plant-based meat unit sales in the same period. 

 The growth in this category went unscathed by surrounding supply chain disruptions, escalating inflation and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. 

Innovation key to sustain growth

Karen Formanski, GFI’s research and analysis manager notes that product innovation is critical for plant-based categories to continue to earn a larger share of the market.  

“Getting more consumers to eat plant-based foods more often requires improved taste and texture to compete with animal products, more product diversity, and greater affordability and accessibility,” Formanski adds.  

Julie Emmett senior director, marketplace development, PBFA, is of the opinion that food companies are starting to get it right when it comes to meeting customer expectations. 

“By taking consumer concerns to heart, the industry is actively embracing its role as a key driver of change that moves us closer to a secure and sustainable food system,” she says. 

Consumer research from Innova Market Insights highlights a widespread desire among European consumers to sample more plant-based alternatives across various products. 

Millennials and Gen Z, which comprise 47% of the population, are expected to continue to be the major drivers of growth due to their exceptionally high demand for plant-based foods. 

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