Plant-based: A trend that keeps growing

Plant-based: A trend that keeps growing

According to research by SPINS, plant-based food sales outpaced all other food sales during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But plant-based wasn’t just a lockdown fad: demand in this segment has continued to grow, and F&B companies are developing new plant-based products to meet consumer needs. 

The plant-based food and beverages market size is valued at USD $94.2 billion in 2023. In Europe, sales of plant-based food products across 13 countries have grown by 23% since 2020, and the plant-based meat alternatives market is taking off – with Germany, the UK, and Italy being the leading consumers. 

Plant-based food products, including meat and dairy alternatives, have become widely available in many regions around the world, with the number of new packaged consumer goods launched with claims of plant-based credentials has increased by 302% between 2018-2022. Market growth has been consistent, and analysts at Mintel predict that it could reach $160 billion by 2030.

What’s driving the consistent growth of plant-based food? 

The short answer is: lots of different factors. 

Plant-based food and beverage products bridge several key areas of concern for modern consumers. They offer an alternative to meat and dairy products that are associated with health and environmental concerns, and plant-based products are increasingly accessible to consumer groups with varying tastes and budgets. 

Plant-based products are: 

  • Often a healthier alternative, and/or marketed with a focus on health. Plant-based diets have been found to have various health benefits, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases (including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) to supporting healthy weight management.
  • Better for the environment. Most people now know that the meat and dairy industries are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as requiring vast expanses of agricultural land and other natural resources. Plant-based diets are a lower-impact alternative, so more environmentally-conscious consumers are choosing to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet.
  • Innovative. The plant-based food segment is known for rapid innovation, and new products are coming to the market all the time. Plant-based burger innovations have seen a particular rise in popularity recently, due to improvements in the texture and taste of meat-free proteins. The meat-free burger market was valued at $4.2 billion in 2022 and projected to reach $5.1 billion in 2023.
  • Increasingly accessible. Convenient, tasty plant-based food and beverage products have become increasingly accessible in some national markets, offering greater choice to consumers.
  • No longer bland and unappealing. The days when plant-based food products were tasteless and chewy-textured are long-gone. Today, consumers can enjoy a huge variety of flavours and textures that are as tasty and satisfying as meat and dairy products. 

New plant-based developments on the horizon

A key emerging trend in plant-based food is a preference for ‘naturalness’. In recent years, many products have been highly processed, with a plethora of ingredients and additives blended to develop the tastes and textures that have helped plant-based products rise in popularity. 

But consumers are increasingly interested in more natural, minimally processed foods – and plant-based food brands are responding by developing products that are less processed. 

These more natural plant-based products will be developed in conjunction with new innovative technologies in this space – to enable the production of realistic, fermented, and cellular agriculture products. Tech including 3D printing and AI will become increasingly prevalent in the plant-based sector. 

Plant-based food is becoming more mainstream. More consumers are adopting entirely plant-based diets or replacing certain components of their diets with plant-based alternatives. This is driving a steadily growing demand for development in this segment – and that demand is expected to continue to grow over the next few years.

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