OPINIONRetail Foodservice

Capitalize on the Growing Trend of Plant-Based Proteins

Sales of plant-based foods reached more than $3.3 billion in 2017
Photograph: Shutterstock

As we’ve been reporting in our annual resource publication “What’s In Store” for the past several years, protein continues to be a highly sought-out attribute in food. And it’s an attribute that our fresh departments excel at. Whether it’s deli meat, cheese or dairy products, the perimeter is a destination for consumers looking to increase their protein intake.

According to the firm Research and Markets, the global protein ingredients market will reach $48.8 billion by 2025, illustrating the rising consumer demand for the health benefits of the ingredient.

However, just as protein remains a driver to our stores, so too is the source of that protein. And given the relevance of health and wellness to the shopping patterns of today’s consumers, it’s not surprising that some are looking beyond the traditional source of proteins—animals—and toward alternatives: more specifically, plants.  

Data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association reveals that sales of plant-based foods totaled more than $3.3 billion in 2017, a 20% increase from the year prior. Further—and probably even more relevant to our departments—sales of plant-based meat alternatives were up 24%, resulting in $670 million in sales. And if we look at sales of animal-protein products, we see that they increased only 2% during the same time frame.

Now, this is not to say that the number of consumers adopting a strictly vegetarian diet is increasing. On the contrary, it simply means that individuals want to add more plant-based options to their diets without giving up on animal proteins. As an example, look no further than hummus, which continues to be a highly sought and rich-in-protein complement to traditional protein sources. A recent Gallup poll reveals that fewer than one in 10 Americans describe themselves as vegetarian. Some of you may have thought this number to be higher, given the above statistics on plant-based food options.

Eating trends such as these may initially stoke fear among retailers, especially within departments traditionally associated with meat, poultry and fish products. But as we’ve experienced time and time again, our industry is not only resilient to change but also adaptable. As an example, look no further than foodservice. More traditional retailers now offer services such as prepared foods and even sit-down restaurants and brewpubs. It’s through this venue that retailers can capitalize on the plant-based protein trend.

Most consumers still want animal protein in their diets. And they also want to explore new plant-based food options. This presents an ideal opportunity for retailers to expand offerings in their deli departments. In fact, it could be a component of the overall evolution and strategy of transforming in-store delis beyond a destination for buying sliced meats, cheeses and salads. A store’s prepared food program lets chefs and store directors create a variety of cuisine and side dishes that incorporates both animal and plant proteins.   

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the plant-based food trend and cuisine ideas at your store, I’ll leave that up to the experts. And fortunately, IDDBA is hosting experts on this topic as part of a live webinar Sept. 12. I encourage both IDDBA members and nonmembers to attend and become acquainted with this growing eating trend. To learn more and to register, click here.  

Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).


More from our partners