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Plant-based trends and opportunities

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Plant-based brand leaders predict plant-based meats, milks, seafood and packaging will continue to trend in the space, especially with the rise in flexitarian consumers.

The days of grainy mystery meats and rubbery faux cheeses are long gone, inspiring consumers to reach for delicious and satisfying plant-based foods and alternatives more than ever before.

According to retail sales data from the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), plant-based food sales in the U.S. surpassed $7 billion in 2020 and grew 43% in the past two years, which bests the growth rate of total food sales by nine times. And it’s not because massive numbers of consumers are forsaking meat altogether. A report from Packaged Facts showed that while most Americans consider themselves omnivores and the number of vegans and vegetarians has remained stable over time, a large portion (36%) identify as flexitarian, meaning they actively infuse their diets with veggie-based meals as part of a healthy living plan.

Food & Beverage Insider spoke with executives from leading plant-based brands—including Veggies Made Great and Danone North America (the parent company behind So Delicious, Silk and more)—to learn about the top trends and influential consumers most impacting the market.

Food & Beverage Insider: What are some of the top plant-based food and beverage trends right now?

Christine Luongo, senior brand manager, Veggies Made Great: Plant-based trends were all the rage in 2020 as more consumers were educating themselves about health, sustainability, safety and animal welfare—all things that help drive the plant-based world.

Some of the most notable trends in plant-based foods were the rises we saw in plant-based meats and plant-based milks. I think those two categories in particular will continue to thrive. I think we will start to see some other categories really start to rise, notably plant-based seafood and plant-based packaging. I believe consumers are just as concerned about what they put into their bodies as they are about where the packaging of that food comes from. I believe you’re going to start to see companies really focus on what their packaging is made out of, and making conscious efforts to reduce waste.

In terms of what I believe is most in demand from consumers, I think they just want transparency. The plant-based movement is all about doing what is better for the planet and its people. As a plant-based brand, consumers need to feel you align with that belief.

Food & Beverage Insider: Who is the plant-based consumer today?

Takoua Debeche, chief research and innovation officer, Danone North America: Recently, we’ve seen the plant-based consumer audience grow and gain momentum. The global pandemic has spurred a renewed focus on health and well-being, inspiring many people to explore adding more plant-based ingredients into their diets. We believe the biggest consumer opportunity comes with the flexitarian—someone who follows a diet that includes both meat and dairy, as well as plant-based alternative options.

To read this article in its entirety, check out the “Power to the plants: Capitalizing on the plant-based momentum” digital magazine.

Melissa Kvidahl Reilly is a freelance writer and editor with 10 years of experience covering news and trends in the natural, organic and supplement markets. She lives and works in New Jersey. 

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