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Plant-based foods still hot: Report

Health is the primary driver for choosing plant-based over animal-based products


• 95% of consumers surveyed said spending on plant-based foods increased or stayed the same in past year

• 54% of those who are increasing their plant-based spend do so for health reasons

• Plant-based yogurt and cheese have played an increasingly important role in driving category spending

Interest in plant-based foods continues to gain momentum, primarily driven by concerns around health, according to research from Kroger’s 84.51° research arm and the Plant Based Foods Institute.

The research included a sales data review, dubbed the Plant-Based Foods Migration Analysis, and a consumer survey.

The sales data analysis found that consumers who shop for plant-based foods are reducing their purchases of animal-based foods, indicating that these consumers are substituting plant-based products for animal-based foods.

Among all households studied, spending on plant-based foods soared 24.1% in 2020 amid the stock-up shopping and overall increased retail spending during the pandemic, and then grew another 1.5% on top of that in 2021.

“In 2021, plant-based momentum grew with a steady flow of new households,” the report concluded.

In addition, 95% of plant-based consumers surveyed said they increased or maintained their spending on plant-based foods in the past year, compared to the previous year.

While plant-based milk alternatives have been a leading category driving plant-based sales gains, the report also highlighted the growing interest in plant-based yogurt and cheese. Plant-based yogurt saw the largest sales increase of the plant-based categories, with sales up 13.5%. More than a third of those sales—37%—came from households who were new to the plant-based category.

“These numbers suggest there were successful new items and/or innovations in this space that brought new households in and notably, increased sales,” the report said.

Meanwhile, shoppers who increased their spending on plant-based cheese spent the most on plant-based foods in total. This suggests that these households are the most loyal and engaged of all the target groups, according to 84.51° analysts.

The research divided shoppers into five categories based on their purchase patterns in plant-based foods during the past two years: those who were new to the category, those who were increasing spending, those whose spending remained flat, those who decreased spending, and those who left the category.

Households that increased spending on plant-based foods in 2021 decreased spending on animal-based foods by the highest amount, down an average of $31 for the year. However, even those households whose spending on plant-based foods remained flat decreased their spending on animal-based foods. In addition, those households who decreased spending on plant-plant-foods decreased their spending on animal-based foods by a greater amount.

Among those shoppers who are increasing their spending on plant-based foods, 43% said they are choosing plant-based milk instead of animal-based milk, more than 20% are choosing refrigerated plant-based meat and frozen meals instead of animal-based versions, and 17% are choosing plant-based yogurt and cheese instead of animal-based products in those categories.

More than half of these shoppers—54%—said they are reducing consumption of animal-based foods because of health concerns, and 49% said they believe plant-based foods are healthier.

Other reasons for decreasing consumption of animal-based foods in favor of plant-based alternatives included:

• 39% said they liked the taste/flavor of plant-based alternatives

• 38% said they can eat more plant-based foods because of the increased variety of products now available

• 33% said they are concerned about risks associated with animal-based foods such as the presence of antibiotics, hormones, or food-borne illnesses

• 26% said they are concerned about animal welfare

• 23% said they were concerned about the high costs of animal-based foods

• 23% said they believe plant-based foods are better for the environment

• 17% said they prefer to eat single ingredients such as beans and rice for protein consumption

Among shoppers who have decreased their consumption of plant-based foods, 64% said lower pricing and/or more frequent sales and coupons would increase their likelihood of buying plant-based foods, and 58% said better taste and/or texture would make them more likely to shop this category.

For those who have been increasing their spending, 61% said price promotions would make shopping for these products easier, and 29% said recipes would be helpful.

The research evaluated purchases by nearly 8 million households over two years. The companies said the research will serve as a benchmark analysis that will be conducted each year to understand the shifts between consumption of plant-based and animal-based foods.

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