Market & Trends

NPD: “It’s Possible That Protein is Evolving Into a Category”

Plant-based protein from broadline food service distributors to food service operators grew 20 percent in the year ending November 2018, compared to the previous year. The research company NPD Group says that all census regions showed double-digit growth, during that time period, with the western region (USA) growing the most, followed closely by the South, according to a news release.

About a quarter of the U.S. population, many of whom aren’t vegan or vegetarian, said they regularly eat and drink plant-based items along with animal protein, as they view plant-based products as being healthier. Many of these North Americans are also concerned with animal welfare, and feel that plant-based protein is ‘clean’ in this respect.

More recently (Jan 2019), according to Neilson, 39% of North Americans say that on a day-to-day basis they are skipping animal protein and actively trying to include more plant-based foods in their diet, even in celebrations and social events like the Superbowl.

The largest plant-based food service category is the burger with year-over-year double-digit growth in pounds shipped to food service operators. These plant-based burgers are popular across demographics, NPD said its receipt mining show that smaller more affluent ($100,000 and up) households purchase the most burgers.

“Plant-based proteins are no longer just a meat replacement, it’s now its own category,” NPD Food Industry Advisor David Portalatin, said in the release. “It’s possible that protein overall is evolving into a category, whether animal meat, beans, nuts, soy, wild game or other proteins, in forms ranging from beverage to centre-of-plate.”

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