Despite the economic hardships of the global pandemic, supply chain issues, and inflation, new data has revealed the unstoppable growth of the plant-based industry in the US. Retail sales of plant-based foods grew 6.2% in 2021 bringing the total plant-based market value to a record high of $7.4 billion.
“The sustained rise in the market share of plant-based foods is remarkable, and makes it clear that this shift is here to stay.”
According to market research by the Plant Based Foods Association, The Good Food Institute, and SPINS, plant-based food retail sales grew three times faster than total food retail sales, with most plant-based categories outpacing their conventional counterparts. Innovation and variety in plant-based meat, egg, and dairy alternatives drive growth as consumers continue to turn to vegan products.
According to the report, plant-based milk dollar sales grew 4% to reach $2.6 billion, while conventional dairy milk sales declined 2% over 2021. Plant-based cheese grew 7%, while conventional cheese declined 2%; and plant-based ice cream and frozen desserts grew 31% over the past two years to reach $458 million. As the largest category in the plant-based market, plant-based milk continues to benefit from product innovation and expanded merchandising space and assortment.
The plant-based egg category also grew rapidly in 2021 with a 42% increase in dollar sales. In the past three years, plant-based egg dollar sales have grown more than 1000%. Meanwhile, conventional egg dollar sales declined by 4%. Other reports on the vegan eggs market show sales are expected to reach $3.3 billion by 2031, rising at a CAGR of around 8.3%.
Plant-based meat and seafood
2021 plant-based meat dollar sales remained strong, repeating 2020’s $1.4 billion in sales, growing 74% in the past three years, outpacing conventional meat by almost three times. Plant-based burgers continue to lead the category as the top-selling product type, with plant-based chicken a growth leader as more alt chicken products hit retail shelves.
Meanwhile, the report highlights a significant ongoing opportunity in plant-based seafood, which grew 14% to $14 million but accounts for just 1% of the plant-based meat market, compared to conventional seafood composing a fifth of total meat and seafood sales.
“The sustained rise in the market share of plant-based foods is remarkable, and makes it clear that this shift is here to stay. More and more consumers are turning to plant-based options that align with their values and desire to have a positive impact on personal and planetary health,” stated Julie Emmett, PBFA Senior Director of Retail Partnerships.
“Product innovation is critical for plant-based categories to continue to earn a larger share of the market. Getting more consumers to eat plant-based foods more often requires improved taste and texture to compete with animal products, more product diversity, and greater affordability and accessibility,” added GFI Research and Analysis Manager Karen Formanski.