Among several key highlights, a new GFI report on the performance of plant-based proteins in US foodservice in 2022 shows that consumers who purchase plant-based meat spend approximately $400 more than the average consumer and make over 30 more visits to cafes and restaurants.
According to the report, these engaged foodservice customers are vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, and meat-eaters looking to replicate the animal-meat experience with sustainable options. The report says that younger (18-24) male and Black, Hispanic, and Asian consumers are more likely to purchase plant-based meat in restaurants than the average consumer, mirroring customer segmentation trends in retail.
Besides plant-based meat; plant-based chicken, pork, and seafood sales have experienced significant growth since 2019 and continue to capture larger shares of the overall plant-based protein category. Foodservice operators can adapt their offerings to these consumer trends to offer more than burgers, the most consumed plant-based format, and attract valuable customers, suggest the report’s authors.
Plant-based in foodservice: $730 million in 2022
According to the report, plant-based proteins are rebounding in the foodservice sector after the COVID-19 pandemic, with dollar sales surpassing 2019 and pound sales nearly meeting pre-pandemic levels.
The wholesale of plant-based meat for food service reached $730 million in 2022. From this total, 39% of alternative meat was sold through quick-service restaurants, 19% in full-service restaurants, 16 % at educational institutions, and the rest in healthcare, recreation, and others, show the figures. Interestingly, at the wholesale distribution, the study found that plant-based protein prices increased by 4% from 2021 to 2022, while prices of animal-based meat increased by 8%.
Despite these positive figures, roughly 10 % of US consumers purchased plant-based meat alternatives at fast food restaurants or any other location in 2022, and the vast majority did so just once. According to the study, consumers seek affordable food options due to the ongoing inflationary trend, and plant-based meat is generally offered at premium prices.
The same trend has been observed in retail, bringing the total plant-based meat sales revenue to grow slightly from $2.1 billion in 2021 to $2.2 billion in 2022, amounting to an increase of 2%.
Normalizing plant-based meat
A recent PBFA’s State of the Marketplace Foodservice Report also shows that plant-based alternatives have increased by 62% in the last ten years, with nearly half, or 48%, of US restaurants now offering plant-based food options. Restaurants, cafés, and school cafeterias are increasingly normalizing veggie options over their meat equivalents in existing menus, appealing to a broader range of customers.
Some examples of collaborations to introduce plant-based meat options include Chunk Foods’ partnership with the Talk of the Town Restaurant Group to offer a plant-based steak across its fine-dining locations; alt-seafood brand Good Catch’s collab with the US plant-based chain Next Level Burger to launch a vegan fish burger; vegan fast food chain PLNT Burger and Meati launched new sandwiches featuring Chik’n Cutlets; and Hooray Foods partnered with meal kit and grocery services Hungryroot and Purple Carrot, to launch its award-winning plant-based bacon.
“The long-term performance of plant-based proteins in food service indicates that the plant-based category is continuing to mature. Opportunities abound in diversifying plant-based products across categories, formats, and flavors, as well as strategically advancing toward taste and price parity with animal-based meat,” concludes the report.