“We talk so much about plant-based being good for the body, for the planet, I want to make sure to really reference also the great things that are happening these days on the [animal-based] protein side,” among meat, dairy, poultry and seafood, Kathryn Peters, executive vice president of SPINS, told virtual and live attendees at Natural Products Expo East last week.
For example, notably more meat and dairy products are now making animal welfare claims and non-GMO claims compared to pre-pandemic.
According to SPINS data, in the year ending Aug. 8, meat products with animal welfare claims increased 7.5% to reach $779m and dairy products with animal welfare claims increased 3.3% to $336m. In the same period, labeled grass fed and pasture raised claims across meat categories rose 7.4% to $236m and 4.3% to $86m – reflecting increased consumer interest in these claims.
Non-GMO claims also increased in both meat and dairy, although at a significantly faster pace and off a smaller base in the prior. Non-GMO labels across meat categories climbed 10.3% to $321m, but inched up only 0.5% to $3.9b in dairy.
Organic claims during the period split across the two categories, but again off widely different bases. In meat, labeled organic ingredients increased 2.7% to $792m, while in dairy they fell slightly – dipping 0.2% to $3b, according to SPINS data.
“It’s wonderful to see so many farms really answering and producers answering” consumers’ calls for better practices, and “also, it’s great to see all this continued innovation on the animal side, animal practices side as well,” Peters said.
She noted that the natural and organic industry is aggressively pursuing regenerative agriculture and corresponding certifications in the animal-based meat and dairy segments.
Plant-based sales outpace mainstream counterparts
These changes are occurring against a back drop where more consumers are trying, and some exclusively turning to, more plant-based options.
According to SPINS, sales of natural and organic, plant-based positioned products are growing three times overall food and beverage sales – up 12.8% year-over-year compared to just 4.2% for all food and beverage. Over a two-year lens, the growth of plant-based products is up 19.6%, suggesting that this is a trend that goes beyond pandemic-inspired shopping shifts.
The appeal of plant-based products far outreaches that of vegetarians and vegans, according to recent research by The Hartman Group, which found that consumers following a broad range of diets are experimenting with plant-based products, which many equate with modern health and wellness.
For example, 48% of consumers say they look for products labeled as plant-based and 31% say they seek plant-based proteins. But only 4% self-identified vegans avoid all animal products and only 6% self-identified vegetarians who avoid meat but consume eggs and dairy. At 48%, the most popular diet was omnivore – or a propensity to eat a little of everything with no restrictions.
This research suggests that both the plant-based trend has staying power, but that animal-based protein and dairy also have plenty of runway to capture and maintain consumers.
Against this landscape, Peters said she sees claims about improved animal welfare and the environmental benefits of animal-based protein and dairy as an area of significant growth in the future.