- Plant-based proteins are rebounding in the U.S. food service space, according to a new report from the Good Food Institute.
- Sales of plant-based meats sold to restaurants and other food service institutions reached $730 million in 2022, up 7.8% from the previous year, U.S. retail sales for plant-based meat — still the biggest overall category — remained flat at $1.4 billion last year.
- Meanwhile, restaurants like Burger King, Chipotle, KFC and McDonald’s have all featured popular plant-based items on their menus, but they haven’t done particularly well. McDonald’s, for example, pulled its “McPlant” from all menus in the U.S. last August, but the food service industry remains a lucrative opportunity for companies in the space.
Roughly 10% of U.S. consumers purchased plant-based meat alternatives at a foodservice location in 2022 and the vast majority did so just once, the report said. The plant-based space has an opportunity to expand within the sector if it can appeal to more consumers, and gain their loyalty.
Restaurants and other food service institutions are a good place for plant-based companies to focus on, the report found. It noted that purchasers of plant-based meat make around 30 more trips to food service locations per year and spend approximately $400 more than the average buyer.
The mindset of a consumer at a restaurant also could help a brand establish loyalty. Taste and experience are often elevated at a food service institution, and “consumers can try new ingredients, taste new cuisines, and experience innovative food trends for the first time,” the report said.
The food service space can be an opportunity for plant-based companies to gain loyal customers and improve sales, expanding and improving on variety, functionality, taste, and price will play a crucial role in accelerating mainstream adoption, according to the report.
Retail sales in the plant-based space have continued to decline, with inflationary pressures affecting the way consumers shop and a drop in sales forcing companies to scale back their ambitions, and innovations which has led to plant closures and job cuts. Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Maple Leaf Foods’ Greenleaf Foods have all announced a slash in workforce in 2022 and 2023.
Although inflation has forced more and more food shoppers to look for sale items on their grocery shelves. The plant-based market within the food service industry may be speaking to a different type of consumer. Not only do plant-based eaters go out to eat more often, according to the report, but they also spend more while doing so.