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The state of the vegetable food industry

Keeping up with the plant-based food industry can be difficult. Every month seems to bring brisk product launches and press releases from startups about the millions of dollars they have raised from investors. At the same time, well-known traditional food companies continue to market their own lines of dairy and meat-free foods.

Every year, the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute – the two main groups advocating meat and dairy alternatives – publish a kind of stand of the industry and analyze how these products actually perform in grocery stores. It’s a useful zoom out that helps put the flash of plant-based food development in perspective.

Your latest The report looked at the sales figures for 2020 and found that, as in the previous year, retail plant-based food sales grew much faster (27 percent) than the total US food retail market (15 percent). And not just on the coasts; All US census regions saw growth of more than 25 percent.

Sales of plant-based meat increased by 45 percent compared to 2019 and sales of plant-based milk by 20 percent.

The plant-based food retail market grew significantly from 2019 to 2020.

SPINS, the Plant Based Foods Association, the Good Food Institute

The growth may be staggering, but there is one major caveat here: supermarkets had an unusually good year. At the beginning of the pandemic, panic buying spiked grocery sales, and profits stayed high through 2020 People cooked more at home In order to avoid crowds and save money, the sale of plant and animal foods is heavily burdened.

Another important limitation: the plant-based food category assumes a very low starting value. A 45 percent increase in plant-based meat sales over a year is a big deal, but it can be brought back to earth by one grim, persistent fact: More than 99 percent of the meat we eat in the US is still from animals.

However, this sustained year-on-year growth at least shows that the demand for alternatives is growing.

Plant-based is more than a trend today

It was common for the mid to late 2010s Journalists and Market research groups predict herbal as the next big trend. Years later it is clear that this is more than a trend – it is a sizable sector of the food industry, especially alternative dairy products, that is becoming less and less alternative.

Fifteen percent of retail liquid milk sales are now plant-based, plant-based butter is 7 percent and plant-based coffee cream is 6 percent. Some sub-categories of plant-based meat are also getting higher and higher consumer dollars – for example, 2.7 percent of packed up The meat is now sold on a plant basis. These numbers clearly relate to sales, not volume. Because plant-based products tend to cost more than their animal-based products, the actual amount of plant-based milk and packaged meat that Americans pick up at the grocery store is likely below 15 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Despite the relatively small percentage of food money spent on plant-based foods, investors are confident that alternative proteins will continue to make up an increasingly large proportion of the overall food industry. Last month, GFI reported In 2020 alone, the alternative proteins sector raised $ 3.1 billion from investors. That is more than half of the total money raised in this area over the past decade. Much of the $ 3.1 billion went to big names like Impossible Foods and Oatly, but many newer companies has a Boost too.

It will take many years to see if this investment – much of it will likely go to research and development – pays off, but it is pushing the industry to meet its greatest challenges: cutting the cost of herbal products and increasing the cost produce them taste better and make them more widely available.

In terms of price and availability, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Just eat have steadily lowered prices as they hit more and more grocery stores (and restaurant chains) – though that’s not enough to appeal to lower-income consumers.

Compared to the popularity of meatless burgers and sausages (the products that the largest plant-based food companies have focused on), Consumers don’t buy many plant-based chicken or fish alternativesThis is bad news for chickens and fish as they are killed in the highest numbers and usually raised in the worst of conditions.

Better news for animals is the surge in plant-based eggs, with sales increasing 168 percent from 2019 to 2020. However, more than any other subcategory mentioned here, vegetable eggs assumed a particularly low starting value – the vegetable-based liquid from Eat Just Ei only became widespread in late 2020, with practically no predecessors (or competitors).

Who buys plant-based foods?

In addition to studying in-store sales, the PBFA and GFI also commissioned a consumer survey to look at who is buying plant-based foods in the supermarket. They found that households with incomes less than $ 35,000 spend the least on these foods, while just over half of all plant-based food spending comes from households making more than $ 70,000 a year (the The median household income in the United States is $ 68,703).

Who buys the most plant-based foods? Consumers ages 35 to 44, graduated consumers, households with children, and households with incomes over $ 100,000.

These data underscore the importance of plant-based companies’ efforts to drive down prices and suggest that more companies should try to produce plant-based meats than they do as possible from the beginningrather than first developing an expensive, high-demand product in the hopes that it will scale and become affordable over time, as most startups have done so far.

The survey also found that People of color are overindicated when buying a plant-based productThis means that, compared to the consumer panel, both are more likely to buy plant-based foods and spend more on plant-based foods, while white consumers are under-indexed.

The demographics of who buys plant-based foods in the supermarket.

SPINS, the Plant Based Foods Association, the Good Food Institute

It’s not too surprising. A 2018 US Gallup poll found that non-white Americans were three times more likely than white Americans to identify as vegetarians, suggesting that non-vegetarian blacks were more likely to buy plant-based foods than non-vegetarian whites.

Overall, the proportion of households that buy herbal products has only increased by 4 percentage points since the previous year. Impressively, however, more than half of American households said they bought a meat or dairy alternative in 2020, even though only a small percentage of Americans identify as vegetarians or vegans. This could in part be caused by the widespread adoption of the term “vegetable” on the packaging label – as opposed to “vegan” or “vegetarian” Research has shown People are less likely to buy groceries if they contain a “v” word.

According to the report, the proportion of “plant-based” claims on packaging more than doubled in the past year compared to 2019. I’ve even seen this „herbal” halo effect spread to retail categories outside of food. Take Tide’s herbal laundry detergent for example (I just hope no one thinks it’s food).

Non-vegetarians may read “vegetarian” on food packaging and dismiss it as something that is not for them, while “vegetable” is a vague term and is rarely used as an identity.

The vegetable industry may be small, but that’s because it’s so new

These annual reports are published with a hefty dose of enthusiasm and optimism, which is justified given the rapid growth of the plant-based food sector (and no surprise given the source).

But they also show how far plant-based producers and advocates still have to go in order to achieve the enormous goal they have set themselves: to fundamentally change the way in which mankind has produced meat and milk for decades.

To do this, the plant-based food industry must experience significant growth for many years in a row before it can begin to reduce the number of animals raised on factory farms.

At least that’s not hpening yet – In the US, meat consumption continues to rise slowly while it exploding around the globe. But it should also be remembered that this new generation of the plant-based food industry is still in its infancy. It was only a few years ago that the biggest players in the industry even put their products on grocery store shelves.

It will be a while before we see if their efforts to transform the food industry gain serious traction. However, the continued progress is encouraging.