Consumers’ appetites for plant-based food is apparently surging, as the market for those products hit a new high of $5 billion last year.
That stems from year-over-year sales growth of 11.4 percent, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA).
The sales of plant-based foods climbed around five times faster than overall retail food sales in the U.S., which only rose 2.2 percent last year, according to numbers from PBFA and The Good Food Institute.
The growth last year was higher than in 2018. That year, plant-based food sales increased 11 percent, hitting $4.5 billion, compared to the 2 percent growth from overall food sales.
Statistics for various food types show that plant-based milk, with $2 billion spent overall, saw 5 percent growth. Meat alternatives, pulling in $939 million, saw 18.4 percent growth. And plant-based ice cream alternatives, a $336 million industry, grew by 5.7 percent. Creamer and yogurt also saw tremendous gains, with increases of over 30 percent for each.
Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at PBFA, called plant-based foods a continuing growth engine, up 29 percent over the last several years. She said growth was instigated by innovation in store categories, and that retailers were expanding shelf space to accommodate people's growing desire for those products.
Milk, as the biggest growth driver for plant-based alternatives, was a particular point of pride –in comparison, cow's milk sales had mostly remained flat.
The 18.4 percent growth in plant-based meat was greater than the 10 percent growth in that industry in 2018. PBFA said the expansion is fueled by refrigerated plant-based meat, which jumped in sales 63 percent last year. Plant-based meat now makes up 2 percent of overall meat sales in the U.S. Conventional meat sales rose 3 percent in 2019.
PBFA said plant-based meat sales are increasing as those items are introduced to more households around the country, while other conventional non-plant-based sales declined. Yogurt, for example, saw falling sales. Conventional cheese sales eked out a 1 percent increase, versus plant-based cheese's 18.3 percent spike in sales.
Despite strong showings for plant-based industries, AgriTech and food delivery investments went down in other food-based areas last year.