Several recent reports have speculated that setbacks in the plant-based sector are a sign that the appetite for plant-based food has reached its peak. ProVeg International has recently published an article which explores the sources of this misleading reporting and looks at whether plant-based meat sales have dropped overall.
Market data released by data technology company SPINS towards the end of 2021 suggested the plant-based meat market had fallen by 1.8% year-on-year in the four-week period ending 3 October 2021. The number has been cited by a host of articles proclaiming that this signifies the wider decline of the plant-based industry. Other reports have also cited a press release by Maple Leaf Foods, which highlights a decline in its plant-based sales.
Although plant-based refrigerated meat sales may have seen a slowdown in 2021, ProVeg believes this is in no way indicative of a decline in the industry as a whole. There are three key explanations for this perceived slump in sales:
- Statistics which tell only half the story
- The inevitable post-pandemic shift
- The novelty curve
The first point – statistics which tell only half a story – includes the fact that most reports citing a downturn in plant-based sales fail to account for private label ranges, which are becoming increasingly popular in the face of the cost of living crisis.
According to data by IRI, private labels now account for a whopping 35% of total fast-moving consumer goods sales value in Europe. Significantly, the data that suggests a slump in plant-based sales does not include sales of private-label products, since this sales data is often not widely available. This is particularly relevant since sales of private label products in the US have been outpacing their branded competitors, growing in dollar sales by 6.5% in Q1 of 2022 compared to 5.2% for national brands.
Moreover, plant-based private labels are constantly expanding and improving their product offerings in the plant-based space. In the UK, Aldi saw its plant-based sales increase by 500% in January 2022 compared to January 2021, with its plant-based private-label products including a meat alternative burger that is 60% cheaper than Beyond Meat’s branded version. Because the sales of such ranges is not included in sector-sales figures, the view of the plant-based sector as a whole remains obscured.
Because of this – and amongst the many other reasons listed in the article – it is too soon to be jumping the gun on predicting the decline of the plant-based industry. Businesses should instead focus centrally on reducing the cost of plant-based items while continuing to provide consumers with innovative, healthier and more environmentally-friendly alternatives.
If you would like to read the full article, click here. If you would like more information on all the ways your company can make plant-based options more attractive to consumers, make sure to check out ProVeg’s New Food Hub, where you can find the most up-to-date information and advice to help your company succeed.