There has been a big increase in plant-based sales recently, with the total U.S. market growing from $4.8 billion in 2018 to $7.4 billion in 2021, according to a recent plant-based foods migration analysis and consumer research report.
Retailer Kroger and the Plant Based Foods Institute (PBFI), along with Kroger's data and insights company 84.51° conducted the study “Understanding Consumer Shifts From Animal-Based to Plant-Based Foods in the Retail Environment” to gather information on the behavior and sentiment of plant-based shoppers.
The research looked at how plant-based customers have changed their purchasing of animal-based vs. plant-based foods across five categories: milk, refrigerated and frozen meats, frozen meals, cheese and yogurt. All of the consumer households surveyed, with the exception of those new to plant-based foods, decreased their overall animal-based product group spend.
From 2020-2021, in plant-based households that maintained its total plant-based spend, their total animal-based spend decreased by $28.21 on average. Among all households, plant-based sales increased 24.1% in 2020, followed by continued growth of 1.5% in 2021, said the report. Consumers who lowered their spend with plant-based categories also decreased their spend in animal-based foods by $60.48, and $41.71 for plant-based.
And, it seems that interest in plant-based foods may continue, as 95% of those surveyed said that they are increasing or maintaining their plant-based consumption compared to the year prior.
Additionally, one of the top reasons why plant-based increasers purchase plant-based foods instead of animal-based foods is because of their interest in health and convenience, the report indicated. Other reasons why shoppers said they are opting for plant-based over animal-based is: they want to eat less animal-based foods due to health concerns (54%); they think plant-based alternatives are healthier than animal-based foods (49%); they like the taste/flavor of plant-based alternatives (39%); they can eat more plant-based alternatives due to the greater variety of products now available (38%); they are concerned about the risks associated with animal-based foods such as the presence of antibiotics, hormones, or the causes of disease (33%); and they do not approve of the ways animals are treated (or the conditions within) in factory farming (26%).
Plant-based categories grew in new and increaser households from 2019-2020, with plant-based meat experiencing the largest growth in 2020 of 63% in new households, and plant-based cheese with the second highest growth of 40% in new households.
Most of the categories had double-digit percent growth, according to the report, with plant-based refrigerated meat increasing over 200%. Of the plant-based increasers surveyed, 43% indicated that they are choosing plant-based milk instead of animal-based milk. Nearly 30% are choosing refrigerated plant-based meat and frozen meals instead of animal-based in the same categories. And, nearly 20% are choosing plant-based cheese and yogurt instead of animal-based in the same categories.