(For readers familiar with a SPINS report issued last year pegging the market at $4.9bn in mid-2016, the Nielsen figure is significantly lower because it does not include most non-dairy creamers. Meanwhile, neither data set includes sales from online sales, or retailers such as ALDI and Trader Joe’s, and the Nielsen data doesn't include natural channel retailers such as Sprouts, so the actual market size is likely much larger.)
The Nielsen data* released at the Expo East trade show in Baltimore this week – covering plant-based foods that directly replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as meals that contain direct replacements for these animal products – shows the overall category was up 8.1% vs a decline of 0.2% in all foods sold in the same channel over the same period.
Sales of plant-based ‘milk’ were up 3.1% (whereas cow’s milk sales were down 5%); sales of plant-based dairy alternatives excluding milk (eg. cheeses, yogurts, and ice creams, etc) were up 20% to $727m – within which sales of plant-based yogurts were up 56% and sales of plant-based cheese were up 18.9%; and sales of plant-based meat were up 6% overall, with refrigerated plant-based meats up 23%.
As for market share, plant-based meats claimed 2.1% of sales in refrigerated and frozen meat products sold at retail, as defined by the Nielsen data set, while plant-based milk comprised 9.3% of total milk sales.
The categories covered included:
- Tofu and tempeh - $98.6m +2.6%
- Meat alternatives - $554.6m +6.1%
- Milk alternatives - $1.5bn +3.1% (within which sales of soymilk are declining but other plant-based options are growing more strongly)
- Other dairy alternatives - $726.8m +20% (includes cheese, yogurt, ice cream, novelty, and frozen desserts, butter**, dips, dressings, and sour cream, iced coffee, 100% plant-based creamers such as NutPods etc)
- Egg substitutes and mayo - $37m +12.6%
- Meals – $168.7m +18.3%
* The data covers sales in Nielsen’s expanded All Outlets Combined (AOC) channel, which include grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, and military stores, plus Whole Foods. It does not include c-stores and some natural channel retailers such as Sprouts or Fresh Thyme.
**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.