Plant-Based Foods Outpace Total Food Sales During COVID-19

New research shows that health is top of mind for many consumers, as plant-based foods outpace total food sales.

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New data released by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and SPINS, the leading provider of wellness-focused data and market analytics, shows U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have considerably outpaced total food sales during the pandemic, demonstrating that more consumers are turning to plant-based foods amid the crisis. Moreover, plant-based meat sales are showing strong growth while growth of animal meat sales is declining.

 “This new data shows that consumers are turning to plant-based food options now more than ever,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at the Plant Based Foods Association. “Even after the highest panic-buying period, plant-based foods growth remains strong, proving that this industry has staying power,” she added.

Chart PBFA analyzed the retail sales of total plant-based foods and several fast-growing categories: plant-based meats (including how they compare to animal meats), plantbased cheese, and tofu and tempeh, over a 16-week period ending April 19, 2020.

 “Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a continued shift in consumer purchasing toward natural and organic products that enhance health and immunity,” said Tony Olson, owner and CEO of SPINS. “Our data shows, the plantbased meat boom of last year continues and as reports of animal-based meat shortages increase, we can expect plant-based meat to gain even more traction.”

 Retail plant-based food sales, like other retail food sales, experienced a significant spike in mid-March during peak panic buying. During this time, plant-based foods were

up a whopping 90% when compared to last years’ sales. Throughout the four weeks following peak panic buying, total plant-based foods sales grew at 27%, which is 35% faster than total retail food.

Plant-based meat retail sales were up 148% more than last year, spiking at 50% over the peak panic buying of animal-based meat. Over the four weeks following, plant-based meat sales continued to grow at a rate of 61%, over twice as fast as animal-based meat, during the same period. Moreover, while plant-based meat sales maintain continued growth, animal-based meat sales continue to decline. 

Specifically, refrigerated plant-based meat retail sales spiked at 241% (compared to last year) during peak panic buying and grew at 113% over the four-weeks following peak panic buying.

Plant-based cheese retail sales grew at 95% (compared to last year) and growth continued at 54% during the four weeks post panic buying. 

Finally, tofu and tempeh retail sales have spiked as well, with growth at 88% (compared to last year during peak panic buying and 35% in the four weeks post panic buying.         

“These strong numbers prove that the plant-based industry is here to stay and will only continue to grow. PBFA members and their staff are working hard to provide consumers with nourishing foods during these difficult times and beyond,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association.