Business is booming for the plant-based sector, and the U.S. vegan food industry alone is now worth $7 billion.
According to new SPINS data released by plant-based advocacy nonprofit the Good Food Institute (GFI) and the Plant Based Foods Association, vegan sales are growing twice as fast as overall food sales, increasing by 27 percent in the past year and 43 percent in the last two. Between 2018 and 2020, plant-based sales increased by 250 percent overall.
The growth of vegan meat
The report highlighted the growth of the plant-based meat market, in particular, with an increase of over $430 million in sales between 2019 and 2020. Vegan meat and plant protein are now worth $1.4 billion, despite occupying just 1.4 percent of the national meat market.
“As appetites grow for different plant-based meat types and formats, the category continues to expand and diversify,” reads the report. “In addition to plant-based beef, consumers are shopping for plant-based chicken, pork, and seafood.”
More than 290 million units of vegan meat were sold in the past year, an increase of 36 percent. While North America is the fastest-growing demographic, demand for vegan meat is not unique to U.S. consumers, and the global market is projected to reach $8.3 billion by 2025.
‘Plant-based milk […] has laid the groundwork’
According to GFI, the current state of the plant-based meat sector is comparable to the early days of the vegan milk boom. Plant milk is the most well-developed category in the vegan food industry at $2.5 billion and occupies 15 percent of the national milk market.
Plant-based milk also accounts for 35 percent of the total vegan marketplace, and dollar sales grew by 20 percent in the last year alone. Over 745 million units of plant milk were sold in 2020, and unit sales — of Oatly, in particular — increased sharply during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The growth of plant-based milk — now purchased by 39 percent of households — has laid the groundwork for growth in other plant-based dairy categories by introducing consumers to these types of products,” reads the report.
The next big thing for vegan food sales
Emerging categories such as vegan egg, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, and other products showed some of the most notable dollar sales growth of all. Collectively, these emerging categories are worth $1.9 billion, and showed dollar sales growth of 28 percent in the past year alone.
Some commentators have observed that vegan seafood could be the subcategory to experience rapid growth. (Even mainstream companies such as Trader Joe’s are working on fish-free products.) Growing awareness of the impact overfishing has on the environment is also driving this change.
In the UK, the number of vegan options stocked by supermarkets rose significantly in the last year, particularly plant-based meat. While experts forecast a 200 percent increase in demand over the next five years in China and Thailand.