Whole Foods Market: Plant-based, plant-forward to dominate summer eating trends

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market
Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market

Related tags Whole foods market plant-based

As shoppers increasingly incorporate more plants into their diets, Whole Foods Market predicts a summer season where plant-based foods and brands take center plate.

Sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products – meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, condiments, and meals – had a breakout year in 2020​ growing 27% to $7bn in measured channels in the year to Dec. 27, 2020, according to SPINS data commissioned by The Good Food Institute (GFI) and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA).

Over half (57%) of US households (over 71 million households) purchased plant-based foods in 2020, up from 53% in 2019.

According to a recent study from The Hartman Group, this consistent and growing march towards plant-based foods continues to build as 48% of consumers look for products labeled as “plant-based.”

“In the laid-back days of summer, we find that customers are breaking out of their routines and are more open to trying something new, whether they’re longtime vegans or just starting to experiment with plant-based eating,”​ said Parker Brody, senior global category merchant for plant-based at Whole Foods Market.

“Plant-based is the grocery category to watch right now as brands continue to innovate by using new ingredients and processes that make plant-based products exciting for shoppers,”​ noted Brody, who says you can expect to see more plant-based cheese alternative spreads at picnics and fish alternatives made from unexpected ingredients such as banana blossoms on the grill this season.

With a growing assortment of plant-based products hitting the market, which categories are consumers most interested in?

Whole Foods has picked five plant-based trends to watch this summer:

‘Alternative cheeses go gourmet’

Whole Foods predicts that consumers will incorporate more dairy-free cheese alternatives into their summer charcuterie boards and are specifically looking for upgraded options such as black garlic truffle, dill Havarti and chive.

“Plant-based cheesemakers are also replicating the methods used to make dairy cheeses for more authentic textures and flavors,”​ says Whole Foods, calling out products from Miyoko’s Creamery, Kite Hill, Cheeze & Thank You as brands showcasing this trend

‘BBQ for all’

Plant-based products such as hot dogs, Italian-style sausages, and jackfruit BBQ will be hitting the grill in full force from brands including Field Roast, Lightlife, Upton’s Naturals, says Whole Foods.

“From algae-based casing to hickory smoke concentrate, these vegetarian options have unique ingredients making it easy (and flavorful) to incorporate more plants into cookouts."

Kids and the plant-based trend

Brands are increasingly providing more plant-forward options for kids including nuggets, yogurt tubes, and superhero-themed ice pops.

Brands/products highlighted: Ripple Kids non-dairy milk; Miyoko’s Creamery plant milk cheddar sticks; 365 by Whole Foods Market Plant-Based Nuggets; Kite Hill Kids strawberry banana almond & coconut milk yogurt tubes; Chloe’s plant-based kids pops: Avengers, Spider-Man.

‘Plant-Based catch of the day’

While a tiny fraction of the $7bn plant-based foods market, plant-based seafood sales were up 23% in 2020 compared to 2019 accounting for $12m in sales.

“Ingredients like legumes and banana blossoms are being used to mimic the flaky texture of the real thing. This means alternative fish sticks, no-tuna sandwiches and a whole new depth of flavor in an otherwise simple fish dinner,​” comments Whole Foods, calling out brands Upton’s Naturals and Good Catch in the niche space.

‘Dairy-free dips in disguise’

Traditional dairy-based dips have gone through a plant-based transformation with the introduction of dairy-free spreadable dips and cream cheese alternatives products highlighting classic party flavors including French onion, ranch, and queso.

Brands leading the charge include Kite Hill and its lineup of dairy-free dips, Siete dairy-free nacho and queso dips, Whole Foods Market plant-base queso, and Bitchin’ Sauce.

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