New data from SPINS released by the San Francisco, California-headquartered Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and The Good Food Institute (GFI) shows retail sales of plant-based foods in the United States continued to increase by double digits in 2020, growing 27% and bringing the total market value to $7 billion. This growth in dollar sales was consistent across the nation, with more than 25% growth in every census region of the nation.
The plant-based food market grew almost twice as fast as the total US retail food market, which increased 15% in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic (SARS-CoV-2) shuttered restaurants and consumers stocked up on food amid lockdowns. Fifty-seven percent of households now purchase plant-based foods, up from 53% in 2019. GFI and PBFA commissioned the data from SPINS and custom refined the data to reflect only plant-based products that directly replace animal-based food.
The value of plant-based meat alternatives — the second-largest plant-based category — hit $1.4 billion in 2020, with sales growing 45% – up from $962 million in 2019. The category grew twice as fast as animal-based meat and now accounts for 2.7% of retail packaged meat sales. Eighteen percent of US households now purchase plant-based alternative meat, up from 14% in 2019. Consumers are coming back for more — 63% of shoppers are high-repeat customers. Sales of refrigerated products grew 75% in 2020, with SKUs increasingly shelved adjacent to conventional animal meat offerings. This placement in the meat section helped propel growth in the segment, with refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives increasing more than twice as fast as frozen plant-based SKUs, which grew 30% in 2020 — 10 times faster than in 2019.
Almond Milk Tops in Non-Dairy Sector
Plant-based milk, the largest plant-based category, has reached $2.5 billion and accounts for 35% of the total plant-based food market. Even as the most developed category now reaching 39% of US households, plant-based milk grew 20% in dollar sales – up from 5% in 2019. That was twice as fast as cow’s milk. Almond milk remains the category leader and accounts for about two-thirds of plant-based milk dollar sales. Oat milk catapulted to the second-leading segment, ahead of soy milk, with sales more than tripling in 2020 and growing 25-fold since 2018.
Plant-based product share of all conventional categories is increasing, with plant-based milk now making up 15% of the milk category, plant-based butter making up 7% of the butter category, and plant-based creamer making up 6% of the creamer category. While plant-based milk boasts a significant share of milk sales in all stores at 15%, it constitutes an even greater share of milk sales in natural food stores at 45%.
The success of plant-based milk has laid the groundwork for major increases in sales of other plant-based dairy products, which are collectively approaching $2 billion. Across the store, plant-based food dollar sales are growing faster than those of many conventional animal products. In 2020, plant-based yogurt grew 20%, almost seven times the rate of conventional yogurt; plant-based cheese grew 42%, almost twice the rate of conventional cheese; and plant-based eggs grew 168%, almost 10 times the rate of conventional eggs. The plant-based egg category grew more than 700% from 2018, 100 times the rate of conventional eggs.
Multiple Factors Fuel Sales Surge
The outbreak of Covid-19 gave retail sales of plant-based foods an extra boost at a time when interest in the sector was already surging, driven by a focus among consumers on personal health, sustainability, food safety, and animal welfare. These factors will continue to propel consumption of plant-based foods far into the future.
“The data tells us unequivocally that we are experiencing a fundamental shift as an ever-growing number of consumers are choosing foods that taste good and boost their health by incorporating plant-based foods into their diet,” said PBFA Senior Director Julie Emmett. “As this industry surpasses the $7B threshold, we are excited to continue our work to help build a sustainable infrastructure, including domestic ingredients sourcing, for this growing demand to expand access to plant-based foods.”
SPINS Head of Retail Dawn Valandingham added: “The plant-based category has evolved to the point that retailers can’t limit who they consider to be plant-based food shoppers. They should now assume everyone is a potential plant-based product buyer and educate them enough to see the possibilities. Between the innovation in plant-based products and the gradual return to less restrictive shopping measures, 2021 offers many opportunities for retailers to appeal to more customers and expand their plant-based offerings.”
SPINS s a wellness-focused data company and advocate for the natural products industry. Over the past two decades it has helped lay the foundation for the next generation of innovation in the sector.