Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes appear to be growing in popularity, with about four in 10 shoppers reporting buying these items in the last six months, according to a new report from the sales and marketing research company Acosta entitled “Plant-Based Eating: Trend or Fad?”
Healthy plant-based diets have been shown to offer numerous health benefits, both in people with diabetes and in the general population. Recently, a study showed that following a healthy plant-based diet — rich in foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and beans and other legumes — may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in healthy plant foods and fermented dairy foods has also been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease related to atherosclerosis, or the buildup of a fatty material called plaque inside the arteries. And a diet rich in healthy plant foods — specifically certain items like cocoa, coffee, mushrooms, red wine, apples, blueberries, oranges, pomegranates, cocoa, and green tea — may reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline. Getting fat in your diet from plant sources like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils — rather than from animal sources of fat like meat or dairy products — may reduce the risk for stroke. Plant-based diets have also been shown to potentially reduce the risk for COVID-19 as well as predict better outcomes in people who develop the viral infection.
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Growing interest in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives
For the latest report, grocery store shoppers surveyed in March 2022 indicated a growing comfort with plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. About 40% reported buying these products in the last six months, and among this group, 64% reported buying them several times each month. The most common reason that people gave for buying plant-based meat or dairy alternatives was health, rather than other potential factors like moral or environmental considerations. Among people who bought these products, 77% did so mostly at traditional grocery stores, while 20% bought them online. The most commonly mentioned items that people were replacing with plant-based alternatives were beef, pork, and cow’s milk.
The responses to certain questions in the latest survey indicate that plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are likely to remain popular for the foreseeable future. Among people who bought these products, 57% said they intend to consume alternative plant-based protein sources throughout their lives, and 10% said they followed a completely plant-based diet. About 50% of people who buy these foods at grocery stores or online also said they think it’s important for restaurants to offer plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products.
The report notes that in 2021, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives saw about $7 billion in U.S. sales, representing a 27% increase compared with 2019. Annual global sales of these products are predicted to reach $162 billion by 2030.
“Conversations about the importance of health and wellness have alerted many consumers to the potential long-term benefits of meat and dairy alternatives, and plant-based product sales are rising as a result,” said Kathy Risch, senior vice president for business intelligence at Acosta, in a press release. “We expect to see steady growth in this category through the next decade, as consumer awareness continues to expand.”