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Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Substitutes Find Growing Acceptance

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Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Substitutes Find Growing Acceptance

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.”

Want to learn more about eating well? Read “Strategies for Healthy Eating,” “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” and “Top Tips for Healthier Eating.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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