Sustainability may raise ceiling for plant-based meat alternatives


By Jeff Gelski, Food Business News 



KANSAS CITY — Sustainability and school meals are ways to jump-start sales of plant-based meat alternatives, said Chris DuBois, senior vice president, protein practice leader for IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.


Household penetration of meat alternatives in the United States inched up 0.1% in the 52-week period ended March 20, according to IRI.


“If you want to think whether we’re flat, boy, that looks flat,” Mr. DuBois said of the category in a May 11 webinar presented by Food Business News.


Meat substitute sales in the United States jumped to $1.35 billion in 2020 from $755 million in 2018, but growth has slowed, reaching $1.38 billion in the 52-week period ended March 20 of this year. The percentage of US households purchasing meat alternatives stood at 19.6% on March 20, up from 19.5% in 2021 and 18.7% in 2020.


Younger consumers could lift the ceiling for category growth. Plant-based foods are growing anywhere from 10% to 50% on school and institutional menus, according to Forward Food, a proponent of plant-forward and sustainable menus. By 2025, 50% of US institutional meals could be plant-based.


“If you watch the generations coming out of high school and college and see the purchase changes, this is one of the reflection points that could change that ceiling,” Mr. DuBois said.


Annual share of sustainably marketed products rose to 17% in 2021 from 16.8% in 2020 and 13.7% in 2015, according to a study from IRI and New York University’s Stern School of Business...