A new consumer report by Nielsen, a global market research company, confirms that plant-based food is on the rise. The report, titled “Plant-Based Food Options are Sprouting Growth for Retailers,” indicated that the sales growth of vegan food and produce is outpacing total food and beverage sales in supermarkets.
The Nielsen report broke down several components of the plant-based food sector in comparison to supermarket sales as a whole. As of 2017, it found that nearly 20 percent of all store food and beverage dollars came from plant-based sources. This number is bolstered by the gaining popularity of innovative plant-based products. In fact, “traditional” vegan staples such as tofu and brown rice have actually declined in sales by 1.3 percent; however, sales of many vegan alternatives have experienced double-digit growth.
By the numbers, veggie noodles, cheese and meat alternatives, plant-based yogurt, plant-based ice cream, and vegan pizza have all seen significant leaps in sales. Vegetable-based noodles spiked 115 percent within the year, followed by vegan cheese at 45 percent and plant-based yogurt at 31 percent. Plant-based meat followed not far behind at 30 percent, and vegan ice cream and pizza saw solid 25 percent and 21 percent growth, respectively.
Despite the fact that only three percent of the US population identifies as vegan, plant-based sales continue to escalate. Nielsen suggests that “ethnic and young consumers” are leading this trend, based on their data. African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasian millennials are all nearly 50 percent more likely than the average US consumer to consume plant-based foods. Further, omnivores and flexitarians, who still make up a vast majority of the population, are responsible for driving the success of plant-based meat. According to Beyond Meat’s executive chairman Seth Goldman, 70 percent of the brand's popular vegan Beyond Burger patties are purchased by meat-eaters.
The report concluded with some sage advice to retailers. Nielsen observed, “The proportion of U.S. consumers that adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet is growing. And that 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.” The company cautioned, “Brands and retailers need to stay tuned in—or risk missing out.”