plant based burger

5 Plant-Based Protein Trends for 2022

High sales of plant-based protein products during COVID are inspiring more innovation across the board as brands seek to keep consumers engaged. Explore the fastest-growing categories and the top trends in plant-based protein products expected for 2022.

Highlights:

Trends in plant-based foods for 2022 include:

  • Adding protein to plant-based milks
  • Plant-based meats with cleaner labels
  • More options for frozen meals
  • More realistic meat alternatives
  • New types of plant protein 

Plant-Based Food Sales Continue to Soar

US retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27% in 2020 to reach $7 billion, setting a new record, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.1 By contrast, total sales of all foods grew by 15% last year. Plant-based food sales were well-represented across the country, with over 25% growth occurring in every region, and 57% of US households purchasing plant-based foods.

Both plant-based meat and cheese saw their highest growth yet at 45.3% and 42.5%, respectively, while the slowing growth in plant-based yogurt, ice cream, and creamer indicates a maturing of those segments. Sales of plant-based eggs saw triple-digit growth (although from a small base).

Growth in US Retail Plant-Based Foods

Plant-Based Foods Category Growth (52 weeks ending December 2020)
Meat 45.3%
Frozen Meals 28.5%
Tofu and Tempeh 40.8%
Eggs 167.8%
Milk 20.4%
Creamer 32.5%
Cheese 42.5%
Butter 35.5%
Yogurt 20.2%
Ice Cream & Frozen Novelty 20.4%
Dairy Spreads, Dips, Sour Cream & Sauces 83.4%
Condiments, Dressings & Mayo 23.4%
Ready-to-Drink Beverages 12.0%
Protein Powders 9.6%
Source: Plant Based Foods Association, Retail Sales Data

Why More Consumers are Turning to Plant-Based Foods

The Plant Based Foods Association reports the top reason consumers are eating plant-based protein products is to be healthier, with more than half of consumers citing this reason. Other leading motivations are that these products taste good and add variety to the diet (over 40% for each). Environmental and animal welfare concerns are also factors—and likely even more so now as COVID-19 has served to increase awareness of these issues.

mom and child drinking milk

Top Trends Ahead in Plant-Based Protein

While this year has been a time of exciting innovation in plant-based protein products, here’s a look at the plant-based protein trends we’re expecting to see going into 2022:

1. Plant-Based Milks with More Protein

Consumers’ strong demand for more protein from their foods and beverages is driving innovation even in plant-based protein products, with Silk Ultra as one of the latest examples. Silk Ultra provides a whopping 20 grams of protein per serving—similar to a protein shake—but can be used in cereal, coffee, and other milk applications. Almond and coconut milks fortified with pea protein are also part of the more-protein trend.

2. Clean Label Plant-Based Meats

More than one in three consumers are influenced by natural labels when grocery shopping, with half saying it’s important to avoid chemical-sounding ingredients, reports the International Food Information Council.2 Plant-based meat companies are beginning to respond to this preference, seeking ways to replace ingredients like methylcellulose and titanium dioxide, for example, with recognizable ingredients and by using shorter ingredient statements.

3. Expansion of Plant-Based Frozen Meals

The Plant Based Foods Association reports plant-based frozen meals grew by almost 29% last year, compared to 8% growth in the frozen foods category overall. This indicates a strong demand for convenient, heat-and-eat meals in plant-based options. Plant-based pasta dishes, burritos, and pizzas are some popular meals that will continue to expand in the frozen aisle.

pasta

4. More Realistic Plant-Based Meats

A majority (54%) of US consumers think plant-based meat should closely mimic the taste of meat, according to Mintel.3 Since most of today's plant-based meat consumers are not vegan, the expectation is that plant-based meat should deliver the same eating experience as animal-based meat. Plant-based meat companies are increasingly prioritizing meaty flavor and juicy texture to meet this demand.

5. Next-Gen Plant Proteins

Since adding variety to the diet is the third most cited reason consumers turn to plant-based protein products (after health and taste), it’s no surprise that plant-based food companies continue to search for new varieties of proteins that can appeal to consumers. A health halo is especially important here, with legumes and seeds key categories for new plant proteins. 

Plant-Based Protein Solutions

With nearly all plant-based food categories experiencing double-digit growth or higher, this is an ideal time for companies to consider expanding into plant-based or increasing the number and variety of their plant-based offerings. Glanbia Nutritionals offers a wide range of plant-based protein ingredients—from pea, flax, and chia proteins to ready to prepare, plant-based crumbles and strips. 

Learn more about our plant-based protein solutions and SimpleatTM plant-based meat solutions to make your next product one that consumers will love.


References

1. Plant Based Foods Association, Retail Sales Data. 
2. International Food Information Council, 2021 Food & Health Survey, May 2021. 
3. Mintel, Plant-based Proteins – US – May 2019. 

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