The demand for plant-based foods has never been stronger, and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the total plant-based market value in the U.S. is now around $7 billion, according to data from the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), The Good Food Institute, and SPINS. Consumers are hungry for healthier, more humane and more environmentally friendly options, and new and exciting products are hitting shelves every day to help meet that demand.
Part of what is driving this growth is the rise of the flexitarian diet, especially among millennials.
According to PBFA, official show partner of Plant Based World Expo North America, one third of Americans are actively reducing their meat and dairy consumption and flexitarians represent the largest growth opportunity for plant-based foods. In fact, plant-based products are a key driver of sales growth at grocery retailers nationwide, growing almost twice as fast as overall food sales!
So how can you capitalize on this booming market, improve your bottom line, and satisfy consumer demand as well? A good place to start is at the Plant Based World Expo where attendees will be able to see, taste, and experience the latest trends in plant-based food and learn new ways to merchandise this growing retail category.
“When it comes to merchandising recommendations, honing in on understanding consumer behavior and tailoring the retail environment to meet expectations is key,” says Julie Emmett, PBFA’s Senior Director of Marketplace Development. “We have collaborated with Kroger to research how plant-based foods perform when merchandised alongside their animal-based counterparts and in the case of refrigerated plant-based meats, sales increased 23% when this strategy was applied.” Plant-based dairy is another category that is benefitting from being merchandised next to animal-based dairy counterparts.
“Plant-based milk is the perfect illustration of the power of merchandising plant-based foods next to their animal-based counterparts. After years of following this strategy, retailers are leaning in–with most retailers dedicating up to 30% of shelf space, and up to 50% in the natural channel, to these options,” say Emmett.
Retailers are also using shelf tags, icons, signage, and dedicated plant-based sections both online and in stores to differentiate the category, educate consumers, and make it easier to find plant-based products.
The Plant Based World Expo is also the place to learn about the latest plant-based trends such as next-level plant-based seafood and meats, dairy-free frozen treats, and global plant-based cuisine. Emerging and pioneering brands such as Eclipse Foods, Hodo, Mind Blown Plant Based Seafood Co., Miyokos Creamery, New Wave Foods, Plantasia Foods, Ripple Foods, and hundreds of others will be showcasing their latest and greatest offerings.
Regarding growth categories, Emmett says that in the last two years, PBFA has seen an increase in products used in cooking and snacking such as sauces and dips. “While the volume is lower in comparison to the other larger categories such as dairy and meat, the exponential growth speaks to consumer demand to incorporate plant-based products into all of their eating occasions,” she says. She also points to vegan baked goods as a high-growth category. In 2021, vegan baked goods in retail alone grew 3% and 417% over the past three years, reaching a market value of $199 million.
Customers in 2022 want more plant-based options to choose from in their grocery stores. At the same time, there is also major demand for less processed foods — a category that many plant-based offerings, to some degree, fall into. “Now that plant-based foods have reached a mainstream audience, with a growing variety of plant-based options available everywhere from grocery store shelves to fast-food restaurants and fine dining establishments, the focus is innovating even more toward health, i.e. clean labels and new and exciting new plant ingredients,” says Emmett.
“Given that shoppers continue to look to plant-based foods to support their health, the industry is rising to this expectation across all categories. Retailers are consistently seeking quality ingredients from both brands and for their private label.”