2020 Retail Sales Data

Plant-based food sales surpass $7 billion, sales up 27% in 2020

As the trade association representing the plant-based foods industry, PBFA is committed to conducting in-depth research to better understand how the growth of plant-based foods is transforming the marketplace. Our most recent data set, analyzed and coded by PBFA & GFI, covers the total U.S. grocery marketplace and shows that U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods continued to increase by double digits in 2020, growing 27 percent and bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion. This growth in dollar sales was consistent across the nation, with more than 25 percent growth in every U.S. census region! Plant-based foods sales have grown 43 percent in the past two years – 2.5 times faster than total food sales. In 2020, 57 percent of all U.S. households purchased plant-based foods (that’s over 71 million households)- up from 53 percent in 2019.

 

 

Current data tells us unequivocally that an ever-growing number of consumers are incorporating plant-based foods into their diet because they taste good and boost their health. PBFA is working to help build a sustainable infrastructure for this growing demand to expand access to plant-based foods. We’re helping brands, retailers, distributors, and food service providers shape their plant-based foods strategy to increase consumers’ freedom of choice to better support their health and the health of the planet.

What this data shows is that this growth is sustainable. Based on research from Cypress Research Group, 77 percent of shoppers in the U.S. had purchased a plant-based product in the last six months. Thirty percent reported that their consumption was a direct result of COVID, both stemming from a desire to increase consumption of immune-boosting foods and resulting from more time at home to experiment with incorporating plant-based ingredients in their cooking. Nearly 90 percent of shoppers said these changes would be permanent.

 

At an increase of 27 percent, the plant-based foods market growth nearly doubled that of the total U.S. retail food market which increased 15 percent in 2020, prompted by consumers stocking up on food supplies amid lockdowns. This increase in total U.S. retail food sales stemmed largely from the closure of restaurants and service reduction at restaurants and quick service restaurants (QSRs) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, more than 110,000 restaurants were forced to either temporarily close or permanently shut their doors over the course of 2020.

While COVID-19 had a significant impact on the retail food industry in 2020, consumers’ shift to plant-based foods began pre-pandemic and will continue to propel consumption far into the future. Personal health, sustainability, combined with newer motivations to boost immunity, ensure food safety, and improve animal welfare are all significant drivers of plant-based foods consumption. According to Mintel, 35 percent of U.S. consumers agree with the statement ‘the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic proves that humans need to eat fewer animals’. In fact, 63 percent of U.S. consumers between the ages of 24 and 39 believe their nutritional needs can be fully met with a plant-based diet. The market has responded by meeting consumer interests, as plant-based claims on packages have seen a 116 percent increase in the past two years. 

This data directs the work that PBFA does as a trade association, from policy initiatives, to expanding consumer access, domestic ingredient sourcing, and an increased focus on equity and inclusion. Read on to learn more about this ground-breaking new data, see how we are applying it to our work, and find links to previously released data.

 

2020 RETAIL SALES DATA INSIGHTS 

PLANT-BASED MILK

Plant-based milk — the largest plant-based category — has reached $2.5 billion and accounts for 35 percent of the total plant-based foods market.

Already the most developed category, plant-based milk still grew 20 percent in dollar sales, up from 5 percent in 2019. Plant-based milk grew twice as fast as cow’s milk and is now purchased by 39 percent of 49 million U.S. households. Plant-based product share of any given category is increasing, with plant-based milk now making up 15 percent of the milk category. Plant-based milk share within natural stores is 45 percent of the milk category. Notably, plant-based milk has always appeared alongside dairy milk, where consumers expect to find it in the store. Plant-based brands continue to thrive thanks to prolific innovation in the plant-based milk category.

PLANT-BASED MEAT

The value of plant-based meat — while the second-largest plant-based category, has received significant attention in 2020 due to its substantial growth and the impact of COVID-19  — hit $1.4 billion in 2020, with sales growing 45 percent, up from $962 million in 2019.

The plant-based meat category grew twice as fast as conventional meat and now accounts for 2.7 percent of retail packaged meat sales. 18 percent (22 million U.S. households) now purchase plant-based meat, up from 14 percent in 2019. Consumers are returning for more — 63 percent of shoppers are repeat customers, purchasing multiple times in the plant-based meat category.

Refrigerated plant-based meat sales grew 75 percent in 2020, with products increasingly shelved adjacent to conventional meat. This placement in the meat aisle helped propel growth in the segment, with refrigerated plant-based meat sales increasing more than twice as fast as frozen plant-based meat sales, which grew 30 percent in 2020 (10 times faster than in 2019).

Plant-based seafood splashed into the plant-based meat category in 2020, accounting for $12 million in sales, up 23 percent over the previous year.

OTHER PLANT-BASED DAIRY CATEGORIES

Plant-based milk isn’t the only plant-based dairy product making a splash in grocery stores. There has been significant innovation across all plant-based dairy categories. Plant-based creamer sales increased 33 percent, making up 6 percent of the category. Plant-based butter sales have grown as well, up 36 percent and now making up 7 percent of the category. Plant-based yogurt sales have grown 20 percent, totaling $343 million in sales for the year. Plant-based cheese sales reached $270 million for the 2020 year, growing by 42.5 percent. Additionally, the plant-based eggs category exploded in 2020, growing by a whopping 168 percent, totaling $27 million in sales.

TOFU + TEMPEH

Tofu and tempeh had strong growth in 2020, growing 41% over the course of the year- 5x their rate of growth in 2019. This growth accounted for $175 million in sales.  

PLANT-BASED FROZEN MEALS

Now a $520M category, plant-based frozen meals have grown 29 percent in the past year, outpacing total frozen food growth by 8 percent. 

PLANT-BASED DOLLAR SALES OVER THREE YEARS

Since April 2018, total sales of plant-based foods have consistently increased by double digits, bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion in 2020, a 27% growth from last year. The increase in consumer demand for plant-based foods has put the sector on an exponential growth trajectory, with no signs of slowing down. Scroll through the gallery to get a breakdown of each plant-based category’s success.

PLANT-BASED FOODS GROWTH COMPARED TO ANIMAL-BASED FOOD

Across all categories in grocery stores, plant-based foods sales are snowballing, vastly outpacing the growth of conventional animal products. For example, while plant-based yogurt sales boomed, growing over 20% to $343M in sales, animal-based yogurt grew just 3%.

MARKET SHARE GROWTH YEAR OVER YEAR

All categories of plant-based foods showed growth across the board, with some of the highest rates in meat and cheese. These numbers illustrate sustained growth over recent years and show the incredible opportunities available for brands in every part of the store, or across the online platform.

2020 RETAIL SALES DATA BY US CENSUS REGION

Additional Information and Analysis

DEFINITION OF PLANT-BASED USED FOR THE ANALYSIS OF THIS DATA: 

A finished product that provides direct intentional replacement for an animal product (i.e. meat, seafood, dairy, eggs) consisting of ingredients derived from plants that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and algae. This data does not include beans. Inherently plant-based foods, such as chickpeas and kale, are not included.

WHY DO SHOPPERS CHOOSE PLANT-BASED FOODS?

According to a study by Lightspeed/ Mintel, shoppers are motivated to add plant-based items to their carts for a wide variety of reasons. We’ve known for quite some time that consumers have stated health, sustainability, and animal welfare as reasons for consuming more plant-based foods.

As a result of the plant-based food industry’s innovation, taste has risen to the second most popular motivator among shoppers. In order to maintain this interest, plant-based brands are continuously delivering products that taste delicious and have the same texture consumers expect from their animal-based counterparts.

Additionally, plant-based milks are now fortified with protein, calcium, and omega 3s to ensure nutrient density. Even soy milks are adding additional protein!

Motivations for plant-based eating vary significantly between demographics, such as age group. For example, while only 34 percent of baby boomers listed environmental concerns as a motivating factor, 100 percent of Gen Z consumers articulated it as a motivator.

Combined, these motivators show the broad scope of plant-based eaters and how every consumer can become a knowledgeable plant-based consumer, given proper access and information. Find more consumer insights here.

Why does this data matter?

How does this data inform the work PBFA is doing?

CONSUMER ACCESS 

Plant-based foods should be available to consumers everywhere they eat- from their kitchens to their favorite stores and restaurants. The PBFA team will use this thorough and up-to-date data to inform our work with retailers, food service providers, and other strategic partners in order to increase the availability and visibility of plant-based foods. The data provides invaluable context that can help our partners concentrate their efforts and get the most bang for their plant-based buck. Learn more about our consumer access initiatives here.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH 

This data helps our team support retailers build evidence-based strategies to expand their plant-based offerings across the store to match demand from consumers seeking more variety. As a result, we are seeing more secondary displays, expanded shelf space with signage, helping shoppers to locate, combined with high-value promotions both in store and online. Learn more about the importance of plant-based foods placement in the grocery store through our study with Kroger here and the impact of our retail partnerships here.

POLICY 

PBFA is proud to be an unwavering voice that speaks for our industry. For each issue for which we advocate, including matters surrounding labeling, agriculture, and nutrition, our cases will be bolstered by this new and encouraging data. This data supports our claim that attacks from special interests such as the meat and dairy lobby are bogus, driven by the growing fear of stagnation in their industries compared to the booming growth of plant-based foods. Learn more about our policy initiatives here.

EQUITY & INCLUSION 

The natural foods industry, particularly the plant-based foods sector, has not been historically diverse or targeted towards diverse groups. As plant-based foods continue to grow in popularity, we recognize there needs to be an increased focus on emphasizing diversity in the plant-based industry in both leadership roles, as well as in expanding consumer access. While the data from this release showed great strides plant-based foods are making in the industry, once broken down demographically, a few unfortunate realities came to light.

  • The majority of plant-based sales are from Caucasian, Non-Hispanic HH consumers with:
    • 71 percent of plant-based consumers identify as White
    • 85.5 percent of plant-based consumers identify as Non-Hispanic/ Unknown
    • Plant-based sales tend to come from consumers who are wealthier, with 54 percent of plant-based dollars coming from households making over $70,000 yearly income.
    • Individuals with more education are more likely to shop for plant-based foods, with 60% of plant-based sales coming from households with a college degree or higher.

The U.S. consumption of healthy, plant-based foods should reflect the rich and diverse population that we have in this country. Improving access to plant-based foods is incredibly important when addressing equity and racial health disparities- especially since The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60-80 percent of African Americans and 50-80 percent of Hispanic people are unable to process lactose. Learn more about inequities in the plant-based food space, and how we can solve them, through these two perspective pieces graciously written by members of our PBFA community:

DOMESTIC INGREDIENTS SOURCING

PBFA aims to support sustainability and farming practices that promote rebuilding our nation’s soil. We know consumers are choosing foods that taste good and support their health with plant-based foods. The data reflects how far plant-based foods have come and the opportunities that lie ahead. Based on research by Cypress Research Group, 2020 provided sustainable, accelerated demand and growth for the plant-based foods industry. In order to meet current and future consumer demand, PBFA has worked with domestic farmers and researchers to develop a model to help farmers understand the correlation between demand and acreage dedicated to ingredients widely utilized by the plant-based industry such as wheat, peas, and oats.

Join PBFA

The Plant Based Foods Association consists of members and supporters with the shared goal of ensuring the plant-based foods industry can succeed and thrive.

The ‘Certified Plant Based’ seal will help us build consumer advocacy beyond PBFA, which is what we need to create the tipping point on plant- based eating.

Brian Orlando

Chief Marketing Officer, Upfield