The most recent US retail sales data by the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) shows that the plant-based food industry is primarily driven by the increasing demand for plant-based meat and milk products. However, other categories make up 47% of the total plant-based sales, indicating that consumer interest extends beyond just alternatives for meat and milk and is actively contributing to the industry’s overall growth.
According to the PBFA, plant-based food dollar sales increased by 6.6% to reach $8 billion in 2022, while animal-based and total food and beverage sales decreased by 3%. These figures show that the plant-based industry has remained strong even during the latest economic crisis.
Moreover, the PBFA highlights that over the past three years, plant-based foods have experienced rapid expansion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13%, surpassing the 9% growth of total food.
Additionally, household panel data from Circana shows that 60% of US households purchased plant-based foods — a steady rate from the previous year. Furthermore, 80% of homes were repeat purchasers of plant-based foods, demonstrating a solid resilience even during inflationary conditions, says PBFA.
Plant-based milk accounts for almost 50% of the space allocated to plant-based products, making up 42% of all milk sales in the natural channel.
But the plant-based consumer base continues to grow and evolve, driving the growth and expansion of the whole sector. Representing 47% of all plant-based sales, these categories include seafood, cheese, eggs, butter, yogurt, tofu & tempeh. Also ice cream, spreads & dips, snacks, baby food, pet food, condiments, dressings, beverages, protein powder, bars, desserts, and chocolate.
For example, according to PBFA, plant-based cheese sales reached $233 million, experiencing a slight decrease of 1.71% in 2022 compared to 2021. But the percentage of households purchasing plant-based cheese increased by 0.2%, reaching 5%. On the other hand, the rate of households purchasing animal-based cheese decreased by 0.3%.
Alt seafood outpaces conventional
And plant-based seafood, including fish and shellfish, were among the top three plant-based meat types that grew the most in dollar sales in 2022.
Filets and whole cuts accounted for 81% of plant-based seafood sales. Crabcake-style patties comprised 64% of shellfish sales, suggesting consumers prefer burger formats. The household penetration rate of plant-based seafood remained steady at 0.8%, with a repeat rate of 40.1%. On the other hand, repeat rates for animal-based seafood declined in all regions.
Significant growth for plant-based eggs
The emerging consumer interest is exemplified by the plant-based egg category. The exponential growth in this category is driven by increasing consumer adoption, availability of options, and innovation. In 2022, plant-based eggs saw a significant growth of 14% in sales revenue and 21% in units sold. On the other hand, although chicken eggs experienced a substantial 47% increase in sales revenue, there was a 1% decline in units sold. This can be attributed to higher prices for animal-based eggs, mainly due to avian flu outbreaks and resulting shortages. These price hikes contributed to the increase in sales revenue, but had a negative impact on unit sales.
Linette Kwon, Data Analyst at PBFA, comments: “The findings of our report show that consumers want plant-based foods for every eating occasion. From snacks to seafood to ready-to-drink beverages, consumers are exploring the variety of flavors and types available to them. We anticipate the expectation for plant-based options for all categories in retail/grocery to continue to grow through ongoing innovation.”
With special thanks to the PBFA for allowing access to this exclusive member’s report and infographics. The full report is currently only available for PBFA members, more information can be found here: https://members.plantbasedfoods.org/membership-information