Innovative Plant-Based Foods Are Posting Double-Digit Sales Growth
NEW YORK — Amid numerous nutrition programs on the market today, plant-based diets are gaining prominence, but shoppers aren’t looking at traditional plant-based staples like tofu, brown rice and granola. Instead, they’re turning to innovation and plant-based alternatives.
According to a Nielsen Homescan survey last year, 39 percent of Americans are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods. But, for the year ended April 7, sales of traditional plant-based options were down 1.3 percent.
That’s not to say that growth in plant options is absent, however, according to Nielsen. Within the plant-based food space, innovation is booming, and an array of plant-based alternatives are posting significant sales growth.
Innovative plant-based food options that are posting double-digit growth include:
- Plant-based cream — 25 percent
- Plant-based nutrition and diet — 15 percent
- Plant-based yogurt — 31 percent
- Plant-based pizza — 21 percent
- Vegetable noodles — 115 percent
- Cheese alternatives — 45 percent
- Meat alternatives — 30 percent
Across the U.S., 6 percent of Americans say they follow a strictly vegetarian lifestyle, while 3 percent follow a strictly vegan lifestyle. Regardless of motivations, the number of consumers adopting vegetarian or vegan lifestyles is increasing, predominantly among young and diverse consumer groups.
In looking across demographic groups, ethnic and young consumers express higher intentions to eat more plant-based foods:
- African Americans are 48 percent more likely than the average U.S. consumer to incorporate plant-based foods.
- Asian Americans are 47 percent more likely than the average U.S. consumer to incorporate plant-based foods.
- Hispanic consumers are 46 percent more likely than the average U.S. consumer to incorporate plant-based foods.
- Caucasian millennials are 47 percent more likely than the average U.S. consumer to incorporate plant-based foods.
From a total store perspective, plant-based food and beverage options that meet a plant-based diet represented a total 19.5 percent of dollar sales in 2017. And as a result of consumer interest, vegan (which excludes produce) and produce sales growth is outpacing total food and beverage sales, Nielsen reported.
In addition, vegan and produce options increased their dollar share by nearly 2 percent between 2014 and 2017. However, vegetarian and vegan offerings aren’t limited to solid foods, as those who choose these diets turn to dairy alternatives, particularly milk substitutes. For example, from a consumption perspective, Americans are going nuts for almond milk, which has posted a three-year combined annual growth rate of 8.2 percent.
Whether it be due to health, ethics or sustainability, the proportion of U.S. consumers that adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet is growing, which presents notable opportunity for brands and retailers looking for ways to capitalize on specific needs and desires among consumers opting for plant-based food and beverage options, particularly in cases where no or few options currently exist, Nielsen advises.