According to a report by GFI, European plant-based food sales have increased by 22% since 2020, taking the total value of the category to a record $5.7 billion.
The research analysed sales figures from 13 countries — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. It found that while plant-based sales have increased significantly, the prices of these foods have been much less affected by inflation than conventional animal products.
Plant-based meat sales grew by 21% between 2020 and 2022, while conventional meat sales decreased by 8%. Growth was significantly slower in 2022 than in 2021, but still positive; this is supported by recent market research, which found that growth is expected for the global alt meat market. Inflation has caused a 1% rise in plant-based meat prices, while animal meat prices have risen by 11%.
Milk alternatives are the most developed plant-based category, now making up 11% of the total milk market. Unit sales increased by 20% over the studied period, while conventional milk was down 9%. Research from the US has found similar results, with alt milk sales remaining strong despite slowed growth in other plant-based categories.
Growing appetite for plant-based
Plant-based cheese unit sales grew by a huge 153% between 2020 and 2022, compared to a 4% decline for dairy cheese. Despite inflation, plant-based cheese prices actually decreased by 3% in 2022, compared to a 12% rise for conventional cheese.
The fastest-growing category is plant-based seafood, with sales up over 300% and prices per unit dropping by 4% last year. However, this is also the least-developed category.
Other products, such as plant-based yogurt, cream, ice cream, and ready meals, have also seen significant growth.
“These figures show Europe’s appetite for plant-based foods is continuing to grow – but these sustainable options still represent a tiny proportion of the market,” said Carlotte Lucas, senior corporate engagement manager at GFI Europe. “European companies and governments have a critical role to play in supporting consumers to make more sustainable choices. Companies must continue investing in product innovation to develop delicious and affordable plant-based options. And governments must invest in the research and infrastructure we need to reduce prices and improve the quality of plant-based options, in order to deliver on their climate targets and enhance food security.”