US plant-based food sales grew 11% in 2019

4 Mar 2020

2019 marked another impressive year for plant-based foods, according to new data that shows that total plant-based retail sales reached $5 billion and grew 11% over the past year—almost five times faster than total U.S. retail food sales.

Dollar sales of plant-based foods grew 29% over the past two years, compared to just 4% growth for total U.S. retail food dollar sales over the same time period.

US plant-based food sales grew 11% in 2019

The Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) commissioned this data from market research firm SPINS. The data summarized in the analysis represents U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as meals that contain meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy replacements. This data covers the grocery marketplace and was obtained over the 52-week and 104-week periods ending December 29, 2019, from the SPINSscan Natural, Specialty Gourmet, and Conventional Multi Outlet channels.

The plant-based meat category showed strong performance, growing 18% over the past year, up from 16% growth in 2018. Plant-based meat reached $939 million in retail sales in 2019, and the category is on track to cross $1 billion in sales over the course of 2020. Much of this growth was driven by refrigerated plant-based meat, which grew 63% over the past year and now makes up a full third of plant-based meat sales. Frozen plant-based meat, which makes up roughly two-thirds of the category, only grew 4% over the same time period.

Refrigerated plant-based meat’s impressive performance highlights an industry shift in both innovation and merchandising strategies, with refrigerated plant-based meat increasingly sold in the refrigerated meat case. A good example of this change in strategy can be seen with Kroger’s 20-week test that it ran in the fall of 2019, in which select stores sold plant-based meat from a dedicated plant-based protein section in their meat aisles.

The same refrigerated vs. frozen dynamic holds within plant-based meat product types. Refrigerated plant-based burgers grew 123% over the past year and a massive 555% over the past two years, while frozen plant-based burger growth declined by 4% over the past year and grew only 1% over the past two years. Similarly, refrigerated plant-based links (sausages and hot dogs) grew 57% over the past year and 93% over the past two years, compared to frozen plant-based links which grew at 15% over the past year and 29% over the past two years.

Plant-based milk continues to dominate as the largest plant-based food category, with sales growing at 5% over the past year to reach $2 billion. Plant-based milk as a category accounts for 40% of the total plant-based food market. Almond milk is still the largest plant-based milk type, but oat milk has rapidly burst onto the scene, growing an impressive 686% over the past year. Brands are rapidly responding to increasing demand for oat milk, with established brands like Oatly joined by newcomers such as Planet Oat.

Other plant-based dairy categories like plant-based creamer and yogurt reached $287 million and $283 million, respectively, while also growing at rates above 90%. Additionally, the emerging plant-based eggs category grew 192% last year and 228% over the past two years.

“Clearly plant-based is a lasting trend that is gaining power over time,” said GFI associate director of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell. “From the data, we see a steady rise in plant-based products year over year across regions, which indicates that this is not a bubble or a fad, but a real change in consumer behaviour. This is a tipping point and there is so much product innovation yet to hit the market, well beyond the burger.”

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