With consumer awareness of and demand for plant-based foods reaching unprecedented heights in recent years, the industry and its stakeholders are ready for the next phase of its evolution. That’s why, in September, the Plant Based Foods Association announced our comprehensive Consumer Marketing Initiative – a multi-pronged strategy to inform and inspire consumers to engage with plant-based foods across brands, products, and categories. 

In a recent interview with Food Navigator, Plant Based Foods Association CEO Rachel Dreskin sat down with Elizabeth Crawford amid the hustle and bustle of Natural Products Expo East to talk about the diversification and expansion of PBFA’s strategy. “The Plant Based Foods Association is now getting into the consumer space and branching out from our traditional pillars of policy and marketplace,” she shared. “We are launching a comprehensive marketing initiative that will represent all of the brands and categories that sit within the PBFA, our membership, and within the industry as a whole.” 

Demand for plant-based foods has never been stronger, with industry sales capping out at $8 billion as of 2022—a 6.6% increase from 2021’s total—indicating robust, consistent consumer interest.1 “We’ve seen an explosion of [plant-based] categories across the store in recent years … due to consumer demand,” Rachel added. “Consumers are looking for various ways to integrate plant-based foods into their diet.” However, as popularity has increased, skepticism around the benefits of plant-based foods and pushback against the industry as a whole have mounted from market competitors in tandem.

“The industry is absolutely at a point now where we need to come together and unite around how we communicate to consumers in a way that is going to shift consumer behavior.”

– Rachel Dreskin, CEO, Plant Based Foods Association

Successfully uniting around our industry’s messaging will require answers to some complex questions: How can we communicate with consumers in a way that meets their expectations, resonates with diverse audiences, and ensures that the industry’s strategic messaging is underpinned by evidence-based research? To start, Rachel shared that PBFA is currently engaged in deep consumer segmentation analysis to better understand who within the U.S. population is most interested in plant-based foods and most likely to meaningfully engage with the category. Following this effort, PBFA will explore what kinds of messaging resonate most with these critical consumer segments. This in-depth, seminal research will allow us to, in collaboration with key industry stakeholders, build out a comprehensive messaging strategy that will even more effectively connect plant-based brands with their growing consumer base. 

Along with our ongoing consumer segmentation work, Rachel added that: “We are absolutely engaged in conversations with various parts of the government to help identify how we can increase investment that is going into the plant-based foods industry, and very specifically into the infrastructure buildout of the plant-based foods industry.” Noting the rise in plant-based interest globally, she continued, “The U.S. will not stay number one [in plant-based foods production] unless we support this industry with the right programs and the right incentives through our government.” 

The Plant Based Foods Institute, PBFA’s sister organization, has been deeply involved in this policy work through the Sustainable Sourcing Initiative, collaborating with farmers and plant-based brands to create sourcing opportunities that ensure brands within each category have a reliable, sustainable ingredient supply. In turn, farmers interested in growing high-demand crops for this booming industry also find a reliable, sustainable market outlet. “When it comes down to it, plant-based foods are an opportunity to rural economies, rural communities, and to farmers. This is an opportunity for farmers to diversify their crops and to find new and better markets.” 

In an effort to further advance the industry and its stakeholders in the agriculture community, we recently partnered with Congressman Jim McGovern and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to introduce the PLANT Act into Congress, a meaningful step forward in bolstering government support for the plant-based foods industry, and even more specifically, for the farmers whose supply powers the industry’s continued growth and success. The PLANT Act represents a significant step forward in increasing government awareness of the industry’s needs, and we will continue to explore opportunities for collaboration ahead of the upcoming Farm Bill. 

In closing, Rachel shared: “As we continue to support the members through marketplace opportunities, as we venture into engaging directly with consumers to ensure that the messaging is reaching them in the way they want to hear it, we are also deeply invested in working with the U.S. government to create policy programs and incentives that will future-proof this industry. Watch Rachel’s full interview with Food Navigator here.

If you are interested in keeping up with our growing Consumer Marketing Initiative work and receiving meaningful updates as our effort continues to unfold, sign up for our email list and be the first to hear about opportunities to support and engage with us.

  1.  SPINS Natural Enhanced Channel, SPINS Conventional Multi Outlet Channel (powered by Circana, formerly IRI and NPD) | 52 Weeks Ending 1-1-2023