Market & Trends

Companies Report Increase in Plant-Based Sales, Contradicting Claims of Declining Consumer Interest

While many articles in the mainstream media continue to report the decline of veganism, the experiences of some companies contradict this.

While 2023 did see a drop in sales of plant-based products for myriad reasons including the cost of living crisis, what the click-bait articles in the mainstream press fail to report is that many businesses in the UK and Europe are enjoying consistent and exponential success.

As Marco Bertacca, CEO of Quorn Foods said to vegconomist today, “The category, like many others, has seen a slow-down, but we must not forget that this comes against the backdrop of many consecutive years of incredible growth. The reasons people buy meat-free are still there and as prevalent as ever. Consumers are still passionate about their health, the planet, and animal welfare. This is why we believe the category will return to growth again, as economic pressures ease and the market continues to restabilise.”

Bertacca adds, pertinently, “We are expecting the category to recharge and rebuild this year, definitely heading back towards growth as consumer confidence returns.”

Here, we take a look at some examples of businesses that are thriving by focusing on plant-based.

“Shift in consumer awareness”

Caterer Sodexo UK & Ireland has announced this week that its sales of meat-free meals rose again in 2023, now making up 11% of meals sold — up from 10% in 2022. This figure was even higher in some regions, rising to 19% in the East Midlands, 18% in the North West, and 16% in Ireland. 15% of meals sold in London and 13% in Wales were also meat-free.

Sodexo credits its wide range of plant-based meals — including Southern Indian Chickpea Curry, Potato and Cauliflower Masala, and Japanese Teriyaki Tofu — for the increase. The company has committed to making 33% of the meals on its menus plant-based by 2025 as part of its Net Zero sustainability plan.

“The increasing preference for meat-free options among our customers is a testament to both the shift in consumer awareness and to the work done by our talented chefs to reformulate menus and create new delicious plant-forward and plant-based recipes,” said Claire Atkins Morris, Director of Sustainability at Sodexo UK and Ireland. “With a wide array of tasty and nutritious options available across our client sites, it is important that our consumers are able to make well-informed decisions about the food they eat.”

© Planthood

“It’s not working”

Will Moxham, founder of plant-based meal kit brand Planthood, recently took to LinkedIn to point out that the company had seen a 500% increase in new customers this month compared to January last year. He also announced that Planthood had grown by 400% every year since its launch, describing the demand for whole-food plant-based options as “huge”.

Meanwhile, French food processing giant Tereos recently reported 50% sales growth for its plant-based brand Ensemble, announcing that it is aiming for a tenfold sales increase over the next five years. UK challenger brand SHICKEN is also expected to achieve five times its current growth after securing a listing at Sprouts Farmers Market in the US.

“If I have one message for the media, supermarket buyers, investors, and everyone else trying their best to put the brakes on the plant-based movement, it’s this: It is not working,” said Moxham. “Human health and the climate crisis are THE biggest issues of our generation. They’re important now and will be even more important in the future. Plant-based eating is a genuine solution to both of these and trust me, consumers are onto it (they’re smarter than you think). If you believe anything otherwise you are asleep at the wheel.”

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