A new study has found that at US grocery stores, plant-based food sales grew three times higher than total food sales in 2021. It was conducted by The Good Food Institute (GFI), the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) and SPINS.
The study found that plant-based food sales increased 6.2% compared to previously record-high sales in 2020, and for many categories, plant-based products were more popular than dairy or flesh versions. Plant-based milk dollar sales grew 4% and 33% in the past three years to reach $2.6 billion, while animal-based milk sales declined 2% in 2021. Plant-based milk, which now accounts for 16% of all retail milk dollar sales contributed $105 million in growth, while animal-based milk’s decline equated to a loss of $264 million, with 42% of households purchasing plant-based milk. In the past three years, oat milk has been growing more than 44 times, now making up 17% of category sales, up from 0.5% in 2018.
Plant-based cheese grew 7%, while conventional cheese declined 2%. Plant-based meat sales grew 74% in the past three years, outpacing conventional meat by almost three times, with plant-based chicken being a growth leader in 2021. Plant-based seafood grew 14% to $14 million but accounts for just 1% of the plant-based meat market. The plant-based egg category grew 42% in dollar sales (in the past three years, plant-based egg dollar sales have grown more than 1000%). It is estimated that the overall vegan food market reached at least $7.4 billion in 2021 when 62% of US households are now buying plant-based products, which is an increase from 61% in 2020. Manager Karen Formanski, GFI Research and Analysis, said the following: “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. As businesses recognize the staying power of plant-based foods, the food industry must seize these opportunities to maximize the vast potential of plant-based alternatives to compete with animal products.” It is a shame that the sales of unprocessed vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, legumes, fruit, and seeds don’t seem to be outpacing the sales of chicken, beef, eggs, fish or milk, whatever their origin — plant or animal-based.