Record Growth in Plant-Based Foods
Last year set a new record for the U.S. retail plant-based food market which grew 27%, reaching $7 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.1 While retail food purchases increased across the board due to COVID lockdowns, growth in plant-based foods was nearly double that of the total market (which grew 15%), indicating a strong consumer interest in plant-based.
Protein is at the core of last year’s surging plant-based foods sales, with plant-based meat sales up 45% (twice the rate of conventional meat). For refrigerated plant-based meats, sales grew by 75%—no doubt helped by the trend among retailers of placing plant-based meats in the meat section. Plant-based milks also continue to do well, despite being a well-developed segment, seeing growth of 20% last year.
2021 Top Trends in Plant-Based Protein
As we move into the post-COVID phase, we can look forward to continued expansion and innovation in plant-based proteins as manufacturers focus on addressing consumers’ current needs. Here are the top 2021 plant-based protein trends to watch:
1) Fast Food Plant-Based Meats
With cooking fatigue officially setting in for many consumers, restaurant reopenings are providing welcome relief. Low prices and menus with better-for-you plant-based offerings are making fast-food restaurants a top choice in eating out. Whether they're craving burgers, tacos, or breakfast sandwiches, consumers can find plant-based protein options at Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, Qdoba, Subway, White Castle, and more. In addition, McDonald’s McPlant and Taco Bell’s Cravetarian Taco are scheduled for a U.S. launch this year.
2) Growth in Plant-Based Protein Powders
2021 is also the year for getting back in shape. With eating and exercise routines disrupted in 2020, fitness and weight loss are becoming top priorities for many consumers. Although whey protein powder remains the go-to product in sports nutrition, the growing interest in plant-based eating along with innovative formulas that blend plant-based proteins to create complete protein products will boost growth in this segment. Brands such as Vega and Orgain are using a variety of complementary plant-based proteins, including pea, chia, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, brown rice, alfalfa, and sacha inchi proteins.