Historically, consumers would gravitate toward meat to meet their needs for protein. And, while a majority of North American consumers still choose meat as their primary source of protein, plant-based options are gaining traction. That’s because 23% of consumers want more plant-based proteins on the shelves, according to a survey produced by Nielsen, Chicago.
The study found that in North America, consumers are actively trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets (39% of Americans and 43% of Canadians). This suggests that plant-based options appeal to significantly more people than just those who follow vegetarian diets (6% of North Americans) and those who follow vegan diets (3% in the United States and 2% in Canada, respectively).
In the United States, plant-based food sales are rising. In the year ended July 8, 2017, dollar sales of plant-based food and beverages increased 14.7%. In particular, sales of meat alternatives are growing within prepared foods. Sales of prepared foods containing tofu, for example, grew 2% and drove $91 million in total sales in the last year. Alternatively, sales of prepared foods containing jackfruit, which only represent just over $220,000 in annual sales, grew 377% in the last year, indicating that consumers are willing to try a wide variety of protein options.
But, protein presence is just the start. According to Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, Inc., St. Louis, Mo., plant-based products that are high in protein drove the highest dollar growth within the diet and nutrition, desserts and yogurt categories.
In Canada, sales of plant-based protein products grew 7% to more than $1.5 billion in the year ended April 29, 2017. When looking more closely across store aisles, however, several categories are driving bigger gains, including soy cheese, meat alternatives and tofu.
Lastly, a balanced diet is key for both Americans (59%) and Canadians (67%). Producers and manufacturers on both sides of the protein fence should continue to iterate health benefits, nutrition and clean labeling in order to meet consumers’ demand for the most healthful protein options available.