Omnivores, enhanced protein content might be keys to growing alt-protein market, GFI reports

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - 	MTStock Studio
Image Credit: Getty Images - MTStock Studio

Related tags Good Food Institute plant-based meat

The plant-based meat market could grow by providing options to omnivores and consumers embracing a high-protein, low-meat diet, the Good Food Institute (GFI) shared in its annual State of the Industry report.

The total global sales of plant-based meat, milk, seafood, yogurt, ice cream and cheese came in at $29b in 2023, according to Euromonitor data. This is a 34% increase from 2019 sales of $21.6bn, which was before the boost the category received during the COVID pandemic. The US retail plant-based food market alone was worth $8.1bn in 2023, with units down 9% and dollar sales decreasing 2% from 2022 numbers, according to SPINS data for the 52 weeks, ending Dec. 7, 2023.

Despite unit declines of 8% in 2023, plant-based milk grew 1% in dollar sales to reach $2.9bn in sales for the same pervious. The plant-based meat and seafood category saw dollar sales of $1.2bn in 2023, declining 12% in a year, for the 52 weeks.

Plant-based meat, seafood, egg and dairy companies raised $907.7m in 2023, representing 11% of all-time investments in the space, according to GFI analysis of data from the Net Zero Insights’ investor platform. Investment in 2023 declined 28% from $1.3bn in 2022, but the decline in the plant-based segment is lower than the rate of decline compared to global venture funding, GFI noted. 

Nearly 1,300 unique investors made deals in the plant-based space in 2023, representing a 10% increase from the previous year, according to the report.

[Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about the fast-evolving alternative protein space? Join FoodNavigator-USA and ReThink at Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins in Chicago June 17-18. The event will include in-depth discussions about how to elevate sensory experience and strategies to diversify protein consumption with novel microbial and cell-based options. Check out the full agenda​ and register​.] 

Omnivores are ‘a significant market for plant-based proteins’ 

The plant-based protein market has gained widespread awareness and adoption, and consumers are interested in trying products that provide a similar taste and texture experience to animal-based meats, despite recent declines in dollar and unit sales, GFI reported​.

In December 2023, Morning Consult conducted a poll on behalf of GFI and found that 58% of consumers were aware of plant-based meat, and 47% said they were very or somewhat familiar with these products. However, 51% of shoppers have not tried plant-based meat at all, and about half who have not tried it do not expect to try it. 

More than half (62%) of consumers purchased plant-based foods in 2023, and of that percentage, 81% purchased plant-based products multiple times. Roughly a third (35%) of consumers reported eating plant-based meat at least once in 2023, and 25% ate plant-based meat monthly or more frequently, according to the Morning Consult poll.  

Omnivore shoppers are "a significant market for plant-based proteins" and represented 95% of consumers that purchased plant-based options, GFI shared in the report. The report also found that only 3% of survey respondents were vegetarians and a separate 3% were vegan, which is comparable to previous rates. 

Tapping into consumer demand for enhanced protein, low meat consumption 

Plant-based meat companies have an opportunity to appeal to consumers who are incorporating more protein and less meat into their diets. 

Per the Morning Consult poll, two-thirds (66%) of consumers claim eating a high-protein diet is important. High protein also overtook low-fat and low-carb for the first time in Google search trends, GFI reported. 

About half (57%) of consumers said health contributes "a lot" or "some" to their decision to reduce animal meat consumption. Additionally, many consumers are concerned with how animal meat products are raised, with 55% of consumers saying they consider the use of antibiotics before eating meat. 

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