New data show that the U.S. plant-based foods retail market is worth $4.5 billion, and grew five times faster than total U.S. retail food sales over the past year.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), Washington, D.C., and the Plant Based Foods Association, San Francisco, commissioned this data from SPINS, Chicago, to use SPINS’ “plant-based positioned” product attribute and then drill down into the data for plant-based foods that directly replace animal products (e.g., meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy) as well as meals that contain animal ingredient replacements. 

Plant-based food is where the growth opportunity is for retailers.

Plant-based dairy

Plant-based milk continues to set the curve for plant-based food retail sales. This category now makes up 13% of total retail milk sales, growing 6% in the past year. In the same time period, cow’s milk sales declined 3% (and declined 3% the prior year as well).

Emerging plant-based dairy categories like yogurt, cheese and ice cream are growing even faster, as more households discover these other plant-based dairy options:

  • Plant-based yogurt grew 39% in the past year (conventional yogurt declined 3%);
  • Plant-based cheese grew 19% (conventional cheese remained flat);
  • And, plant-based ice cream and frozen novelty grew 27% (conventional ice cream and frozen novelty grew 1%).

For plant-based meat, eggs and dairy, accessibility includes adjacency to conventional animal products, where they are easy for everyone to find.

Plant-based meat

Total plant-based meat is now worth $800 million, accounting for 2% of U.S. retail packaged meat sales. Retailers increasingly shelve plant-based meat in the refrigerator section, alongside conventional animal meat, introducing a wider range of consumers to these products and putting all “center-of-plate proteins” in one convenient place. Consequently, refrigerated plant-based meat sales have taken off to the tune of 37% growth over the past year.

“This is just the beginning of a massive growth period for plant-based foods,” says Caroline Bushnell, GFI associate director of corporate engagement. “Consumer appetite for plant-based foods is surging, as consumers increasingly make the switch to foods that match their changing values and desire for more sustainable options. This growth will continue as more companies bring next-generation innovations to market that really deliver on the most important driver of consumer choice—taste.”