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People are really, really into plant-based meat these days

People are really, really into plant-based meat these days
[Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]

Plant-based food is having a moment–and it’s reflecting in its sales numbers.

In the past year, retail sales of plant-based foods have increased by 17% and now total $3.7 billion, which is especially impressive given that total retail food sales in the past year climbed just 2%. The shift, according to just-released data from the Good Food Institute, seems to be primarily driven by plant-based meat, which has exploded in recent months: Beyond Meat, for instance, which manufactures meat-free proteins like burgers, chicken strips, and sausage, has seen sales ramp up by 70%.

There are a number of factors giving rise to this sales boom: a growing awareness that animal protein is good for neither humans nor the environmental sustainability of the planet, and advancements in science and technology that have transformed meat alternatives from rather dry, tasteless products into viable and delicious meals. The aim for many plant-based food companies is to make something so good that consumers will opt for it over an animal-derived product on taste alone.

That seems to be what’s happening: According to GFI, around 12% of households now voluntarily purchase plant-based alternatives, and they expect to see that trend growing.

For a sense of how the plant-based boom, especially in the “meat” category, may continue, it’s useful to look to dairy-free milk as a comparison. “The plant-based meat category today is reminiscent of the plant-based milk category about 10 years ago, when growth began to really take off,” says Caroline Bushnell, senior marketing manager at GFI, in a press release. “As it follows that trajectory, reaching share of market parity with plant-based milk would make the retail plant-based meat category worth almost $10 billion.”

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