Sales of plant-based proteins are soaring, and it’s not just vegans behind the market growth. The NPD Group, a leading global information company, collected data surrounding the consumption of plant-based foods in the US and found significant growth in figures by a variety of consumer types.

According to the press release, The NPD Group compared data from the year preceding March 2018 to the same period a year beforehand and found a significant rise in plant-based protein shipments. The report uncovered a 19 percent rise in plant-based protein cases shipped to independent restaurants by broadline foodservice distributors. Additionally, in-home consumption boosted by 24 percent since 2015. 

However, it wrote, “Plant-based proteins aren’t just for vegans and vegetarians anymore as U.S. consumers seek more protein in their diets and plant-based foods become more available and tastier.” Similarly, The NPD Group highlighted that “consumers are mixing both meat and plant-based proteins into their diets.” 

A recent survey by the organization found that 14 percent of consumers in the U.S. — more than 43 million people — “regularly use” food items free from animal products, such as almond milk, vegetable burgers, and tofu. Notably, 86 percent of these people do not consider themselves vegetarian or vegan.

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Of those who consume plant-based foods, one of the most frequent users are “consumers who tend to think of food as fuel.” Also, one of the fastest-growing categories of people who eat plant-based is “those who are all about the taste of foods.” 

David Portalatin, the industry advisor for NPD’s Food Sector, said in a statement, “It’s clear by the growth of plant-based proteins that this category has mainstreamed beyond those consumers who choose a meatless diet.”

“Food manufacturers and operators have improved the quality and taste of plant-based foods over the past several years and these foods are appealing to a variety of consumer segments for a variety of reasons.”

While veganism was previously considered somewhat niche, the popularity of the movement has boosted substantially in recent times, making the lifestyle more accessible than ever before. A significant number of meat-eaters are opening up to plant-based eating; January data revealed 70 percent of people purchasing the vegan Beyond Burger are meat-eaters. Similarly, meat-eating consumers are said to be behind the influx of vegan restaurants in Canada.