Gallery: Plant-Based Meat Presence Grows at Expo East

Meagan McGinnes

The Project NOSH team is not the only group talking about plant-based meat.

Last week, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), a trade interest group of 80 members, and The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization, published Nielsen data about the growth of the plant-based food industry over the last year.

According to the analysis, which examined only plant-based foods that directly replace animal products, over the past year plant-based foods saw growth of 8.1 percent, with the total market for the sector expected to top $3.1 billion in sales in 2017. While the sector’s fastest growing category remains plant-based dairy alternatives — 20 percent growth and over $700 million in sales in the past year — plant-based meat is also gaining a lot of traction, with six percent growth compared to a year ago.

Refrigerated meats are growing more than frozen, according to the data, at 23 percent growth since last year. Michele Simon, executive director of the PBFA, said refrigerated products are seeing growth because consumers are increasingly looking for fresh foods and shopping the perimeter of store. Brands are taking note of this shopping migration. This week, frozen food brand Quorn announced its first refrigerated meat substitute.

Simon also told NOSH that while previous growth was primarily from increased sales in the natural channel, she believes that conventional sales are rising. Helping fuel the growth in product innovation and distribution is investment from private equity and large strategics alike. Impossible Burger recently closed a round of funding and Nestle recently acquired frozen vegan and vegetarian meat maker Sweet Earth.

Still, while the sector is gaining a presence in the industry and on shelves, products with plant-based meat claims only account for 2.1 percent of sales in refrigerated and frozen meat products sold at retail. Simon said she thinks this means that there is plenty of room for success. Given that beef alone is an $80 billion industry in the U.S, she noted, there is a lot of market share for plant-based meats to capture. Even so, plant-based meat companies have many challenges ahead of them.

“[Challenges range from] getting more room on store shelves and staying there, meeting demand production-wise, and being able to grow in a sustainable way, [to] access to capital to sustain growth and competitive pricing, as compared to animal meat,” Simon said. “We have a ways to go to make a real impact, but it’s getting there. People are realizing they need to cut down on animal meat eating for their own health and that of the planet, and that there is no excuse not to cut down, given all the delicious meat alternatives on the market, with much more to come.”

Plant-based meat’s growth and innovation was apparent during Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Md., last week. With innovation from longtime vegetarian-friendly brands like Tofurkey, to completely new players like frozen, plant-based burrito brand, Alpha Foods, here are some of the plant-based meat alternatives the NOSH team spotted during the show.

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