- Plant-based food sales reached $8 billion in 2022, an increase of 6.6% from the previous year, according to statistics from SPINS and reported by the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute.
- Most categories saw sales increase. Plant-based milk, which is the largest category in the space by far, grew 8.5%, tallying $2.8 billion in sales. Three categories saw sales drop: plant-based meat, which decreased 1.2%; ice cream, which fell 4.5%; and cheese, which was down 2%.
- Last year was difficult for all food makers, as intense inflation and supply chain issues increased prices and impacted supplies. Many plant-based meat companies had an especially bad 2022, with layoffs, operating losses and company closures.
In its report, PBFA said the numbers from 2022 show plant-based food is a resilient category with real staying power.
Last year was not easy for any food company, and inflation hit the plant-based sector especially hard. Because these companies are relatively small and don’t have the same massive scale as more traditional items, plant-based prices tend to be more expensive. As inflation led consumers to cut back on spending, the report shows they didn’t cut out plant-based items.
“This success is a testament to the dedication of consumers who are looking for plant-based options for every eating occasion, and the innovative brands and marketplace partners who are working to meet growing demand for sustainable, healthy, and delicious options,” PBFA CEO Rachel Dreskin said in a written statement.
The study, which includes several different data points on plant-based sales and consumer behavior, shows plant-based consumers have grown more entrenched through the years. Overall, plant-based foods have a 60% household penetration, and an 80% repeat purchase rate.
Plant-based milk, which has long been the largest category in the segment, made up 15.3% of all milk sold in the U.S. last year, and had about a quarter of shelf space in the dairy case, the study found. It was purchased by more than four in 10 households, and had a repeat buy rate of more than 75%. And according to a report last year from the Plant Based Foods Institute, Kroger and 84.51°, 43% of consumers who are new to the category or increasing the amount of plant-based foods they buy are choosing plant-based milk instead of dairy.
Plant-based meat, the second-largest category in the segment, showed the hardships of 2022 in its sales. While dollar sales were down about $10 million compared to 2021, unit sales fell by 8.2%. However, the study says, plant-based options still represent about 2.5% of the entire packaged meat category.
But there were bright spots for plant-based meat in the report. While household penetration was 17.5% in 2022, plant-based meat saw a repeat purchase rate of 62.5%. Frozen plant-based meat now represents 63% of sales, with consumers looking for more convenience. And some of the up-and-coming categories of plant-based meat — chicken, fish and shellfish — all saw about 15% to 16% sales increases last year.
Plant-based eggs have continued to grow. Dollar sales in this category were up 14.3% in 2022, hitting $45 million. As traditional egg prices went up and supply went down, plant-based egg unit sales flourished, increasing 21%. Conversely, traditional egg sales declined 1% last year. Household penetration of plant-based eggs was at 1.5%, so both established players and newcomers to the category have a lot of opportunity for growth.
PBFA noted that a wider look at the segment over the last four years shows plant-based products in general are growing more than their traditional counterparts. Other foods and beverages showed 1% growth in unit sales between 2019 and 2022, PBFA said. In the same period, plant-based unit sales increased 23%.