Sprouting Reasons to Stock Plant-Based Foods & Beverages

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Sprouting Reasons to Stock Plant-Based Foods & Beverages

By Renée M. Covino, Convenience Store News - 01/28/2019

NATIONAL REPORT — Plant protein isn’t just for vegetarians and vegans anymore.

From plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, to energy bars and beverages boasting plant protein, the “plant power” trend is growing among consumers at-large, which means the trend is growing among convenience store shoppers.

Do you have a “green” merchandising thumb?

If not, here are some reasons why you should start cultivating one:

Plant-Based Innovation Is Flourishing 

Growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics is propelling plant-derived ingredients and products into high popularity, according to Innova Market Insights. Gravitation toward plant-based diets in general, along with interest in vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles and concerns over animal welfare, are contributing factors.

Four in 10 U.S. consumers increased their consumption of meat substitutes/alternatives during 2017, according to market researcher The NPD Group. And plant-based dairy alternatives are expected to comprise 40 percent of the total dairy/dairy alternatives market by 2021, reports market research firm Packaged Facts.

“Vegetarians and vegans together account for less than 15 percent of all consumers and their numbers do not grow very rapidly, but a growing number of consumers identify themselves as flexitarian and lessitarian, meaning they’ve cut back on their consumption of animal-based foods and beverages,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It is this group that is most responsible for the significant and ongoing shift from dairy milk to plant-based milk.”

There’s Much to Milk  

In recent years, the plant-based dairy beverage alternatives category has expanded beyond nut- and legume-based milk alternatives like soy, rice, coconut and almond. The category now includes options made from cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans and tiger nuts. Additionally, there are non-dairy milks being offered that are sourced from bananas, cassava, oats, potatoes and more.

And the innovation is far from over. Looking ahead, Packaged Facts expects several other new and novel non-dairy milks to find a wider audience, including barley milk, flax milk, hemp milk, pea milk and quinoa milk. 

Convenience Is Playing a Role

In-home consumption of plant-based proteins has grown by 24 percent since 2015, according to NPD. The heaviest users of plant-based foods are more convenience-oriented than others, the global information company found.

Other attributes of the heaviest users include:

  • Those who are more likely to be on a diet;
  • Consumers who have a medical condition;
  • Consumers who tend to think of food as fuel; and
  • Those who are less confident in their cooking skills.

Gone From Niche to Mainstream

“The plant-based foods industry has gone from being a relatively niche market to fully mainstream,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), which represents plant-based food companies.

2018 marked the second year that PBFA released Nielsen retail sales data. In July, the trade association that represents 114 of the nation’s leading plant-based food companies released new data showing robust sales in the plant-based foods industry, with dollar sales growth of 20 percent over the last year and sales now topping $3.3 billion. Comparatively, overall food sales growth is around just 2 percent.

“The new data confirms what we are hearing and seeing every day from our members: sales are up, investment is increasing and new jobs are being created in the plant-based foods industry,” said Simon.

Download our full report, “Planting the Seed,” by clicking below