Case shipments of plant-based protein from broadline foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased 20% year over year for the year ending November 2018, according to NPD Group. Further, the group reported that all census regions showed double-digit growth.
The West Census Region represented the most plant-based protein volume and case shipment growth, followed closely by the South Census Region, NPD’s SupplyTrack monthly tracking service found.
“About a quarter of the U.S. population, many of whom aren’t vegan or vegetarian, say that they eat and drink plant-based beverages and foods as well as animal protein on a regular basis,” NPD noted.
Among the reasons plant-based proteins have become mainstream is that consumers, in addition to wanting to add protein to their diets, perceive them as being a “better-for-you” option. Additionally, fans of plant-based proteins have expressed concerns about animal welfare and want to know how products are brought to market. These consumers have the belief that plant-based protein provides “clean meat” and eliminates many of these barriers, NPD said.
Burgers represent the largest plant-based foodservice category and have shown double-digit year-over-year growth in pounds shipped to foodservice operators. Plant-based burgers are also showing up the most on many restaurant menus. Although plant-based burgers are popular across demographics, an analysis done with NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout, showed that smaller, more affluent ($100,000 and up) households are the top buyers of plant-based burgers.
“Plant-based proteins are no longer just a meat replacement; it’s now its own category,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “It’s possible that protein overall is evolving into a category -- whether animal meat, beans, nuts, soy, wild game or other proteins -- in forms ranging from beverage to center of plate.”