The Plant Based Foods Association, San Francisco, and The Good Food Institute, Washington, D.C., released new data commissioned from Nielsen, Chicago, which shows the total market for the plant-based food sector topping $3.1 billion in sales.

According to the data, the growth overall in plant-based foods was 8.1% since last year, as compared to a decline of 0.2% all foods sold in the same channel. (All food departments include deli, grocery, dairy, meat, produce, bakery and frozen foods). The data scans all outlets, including grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores and military stores, plus Whole Foods. This custom data set was compiled from specific lists of plant-based foods for each category that represents a replacement for animal products.

The data showed that plant-based dairy alternatives are a fast-growing category, with 20% growth, topping $700 million in sales over the past year. This category, which excludes milks, includes plant-based cheeses, yogurts and ice creams. Yogurt shows significant growth, at 56% since last year, according to the data.

The plant-based milk category is up 3.1% since last year. Over the same period, according to the Nielsen data, cow’s milk sales are down about 5%.

The results also showed plant-based meats growing at 6% compared to a year ago. Refrigerated meats are growing more than frozen, according to the data, at 23% since last year.

Plant-based meat claims 2.1% of sales in refrigerated and frozen meat products sold at retail, as defined by the Nielsen data set. Plant-based milk comprises 9.3% of milk sales.

“It’s exciting to see the steady growth of the plant-based foods industry,” says Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association. “With this new baseline data, we have a solid foundation for this young industry to grow each year.”

“There is a revolution going on in the plant-based meat space,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute. “Right now, the sector is small, but growing, and we are working hard to create a viable market sector. It is especially impressive to see that all the plant-based companies are working cooperatively because a rising tide will lift all boats.”

Nielsen analyzed data in several categories over a 52-week period ending Aug. 12. The data represents foods that replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs and dairy, as well as meals that contain animal foods replacements. Within each category, both branded products and private labeled items were included.

The market was segmented into the following categories:

1) Tofu and tempeh
2) Meat alternatives
3) Milk alternatives
4) Other dairy alternatives:

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream, novelty and frozen desserts
  • Butter (butter alternatives were defined as vegan products marketed using the terms “butter,” “buttery spread,” or “vegan spread.” Margarines that are not specifically marketed to function as butter replacements were not included).
  • Dips, dressings and sour cream
  • Iced coffee
  • Creamers

5) Egg substitutes and mayo
6) Meals