The Plant Based Foods Association was founded on the belief that plant-based companies need a collective voice to advance and expand our industry—a unified front to advocate for change on behalf of the greater whole. In the years since, we’ve witnessed exponential growth in the plant-based sector, consumer demand reach unprecedented heights, and jaw-dropping innovation from every corner of our membership, all of whom are rising to meet the moment.

And one thing became clear: It was time to think bigger than ever before.

From size to customer base to product category, PBFA’s membership is incredibly diverse. But this entire community has one key quality in common: That food has a role to play in bettering the world and building a more sustainable future for all. With the skyrocketing popularity of plant-based and with consumers increasingly aware of the many benefits of eating more plants, it has never been clearer that the plant-based foods sector is well-poised to drive the major change we all know we need—the change that brought us to this industry in the first place.

Driving major progress requires big picture perspective—and that’s why last year we embarked on a long-term strategic planning journey that spanned the bulk of 2021, working closely together, with our Board, and with input from our community to roadmap the natural evolution of PBFA as a trade association, an industry advocate, and an agent for change. It was the first time PBFA had ever undergone a planning process this comprehensive and rigorous, and through it all, we were motivated and inspired by the passion and determination we see across our membership every single day. “Our members were at the top of our minds during the development of our new strategic plan, and I am so excited to now be both sharing and initiating the big plans that we have for the future of the plant-based foods industry,” said PBFA Board President Nicole Sopko.

After months of discussion, collaboration, and ideation, we finally unveiled our three-year plan at our members-only event ahead of Plant Based World Conference and Expo in December of 2021. During the event, we revealed our plans to expand and diversify PBFA’s membership and the benefits we offer—from our ambitious goal of reaching 1,000 members in the next three years to our plans to provide more ways for members to build capacity, connect with one another, and seize opportunities to meet and exceed their growth goals. We’ve hit the ground running in 2022 with the creation of new member committees and the launch of our Small Business Development Program—and that’s just the beginning.

We also shared our big picture vision: A world where values and business interests harmonize to create a plant-based food system that respects the dignity and health of all living beings and the planet. And nowhere in our strategic plan is the commitment to that vision more apparent than the introduction of our sister nonprofit organization, the Plant Based Foods Institute (PBFI).

PBFI’s mission is to drive transformation to a plant-based food system that benefits people, the planet, and animals by identifying and creating impactful solutions for businesses—as well as stakeholders across every corner of the food system—and advocating for broadscale change. Through research, strategy development, and relationship-building, PBFI will incubate, employ, and evaluate strategies to drive this transformation, with the plant-based foods industry at the center of it all.

Our strategic plan breaks down the missions and objectives of PBFA and PBFI, how we will empower our member companies to drive systems change, and how the two entities will work seamlessly together to ensure a thriving plant-based industry and get us closer to a plant-based food system. “This plan, the development of which has been the most important and collaborative process I have led thus far, lays out in clear terms what the role of PBFA and PBFI entails as we work towards a food system that is healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable for all,” said PBFA CEO Rachel Dreskin.

Board member Sadrah Schadel added: “The combined power of the PBFA & PBFI has the potential to create a seismic shift in our food system by centering plants as the key to building a sustainable future. Through strengthening plant-based businesses and advocating for policy reform simultaneously, we have an exciting and powerful opportunity to create lasting impact.”

Center stage in the plan is PBFA’s intensifying marketplace development strategy, expanding the unique opportunities we provide to members to meaningfully connect with retailers. Through PBFA-developed retailer events, integrated marketing programs, resources, and e-commerce connections, growing our members’ businesses is the name of the game in the years ahead. “We are embarking on groundbreaking research initiatives, focusing on both expanding retail shelf space in all areas of the store and understanding the degree to which plant-based foods are displacing animal-based foods,” said Julie Emmett, PBFA’s Senior Director of Marketplace Development. “The goal is to change the retail environment in favor of more space and assortment of plant-based foods to fully leverage consumer demand.”

Another key focal point is PBFA and PBFI’s joint objectives to make the next three years a period of incredible policy progress: In addition to building members’ capacity to advocate for policy change and ensuring that plant-based companies do not face burdensome and unnecessary labeling restrictions, we will also be laser-focused on influencing policy to drive broader food systems change at every level.

“I’m energized by our ambitious strategic plan to create an equitable, resilient, and regenerative food system, and at the heart of our plan is championing our incredible members,” said Nicole Negowetti, our Vice President of Policy and Food Systems. “The plant-based foods industry is leading the way to create a sustainable future of food. I look forward to working closely with PBFA members to ensure that the environmental, social justice, and health benefits of plant-based foods are front-and-center on the national and state policy agendas.”

Sabina Vyas, PBFA’s Senior Director of Impact Strategies, is similarly excited by the learning and evaluation ahead: “I’m thrilled that we have further rooted our work in our mission and vision,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to create opportunities for our members, while taking a deeper dive into assessing strategies for impact and growth, at the intersection of our environment, health, and social justice. Our members and industry inspire us and we hope to continue learning from them and the research with the goal of lifting up what works and empowering our members and partners to be agents of change in transforming our food system.”

As we begin to bring the work outlined in our strategic plan to life, we will stay excited and heartened by the spirit that underpins it: By championing our members’ interests through the Plant Based Foods Association, and by identifying and promoting innovative solutions through the Plant Based Foods Institute, we are uniquely positioned to empower the plant-based foods industry to drive food system change. And by working collaboratively with every single one of our members and with the many stakeholders that shape our food system, we can make our vision a reality.

We’ll let our CEO have the final word: “The challenges we face are considerable but, through our work, PBFA and PBFI is an essential part of the solution,” she said. “The future is already here, and the market, the demand, and the number of individuals and communities embracing plant-based foods are growing every day. And we’re ready to seize the moment.”