The COVID-19 pandemic has made many Americans question their dietary choices regarding their overall health and immunity. As a result, more Americans than ever before are looking for healthy alternatives to common kitchen staples like dairy, eggs, and meat. Plant-based dairy products are becoming more and more popular among Americans. By 2024, Americans are expected to spend 5 billion on plant-based dairy products alone. What does this mean for all of us?
Nut Milk and Plant Yogurt
In the dairy aisle, you can expect to see more and more plant-based proteins in the coming years. In this category, almond and soy milk are by far the most popular category, followed by plant-based yogurt. Recently, Chobani has released an entire line of these non-dairy yogurts with flavors like Peace Hibiscus and Vanilla Cinnamon. Even plant-based eggs, sour cream, and cheese spreads are becoming commonplace.
Not all Vegans
Currently, 25% of Americans have eaten plant-based meats in the last year. Nearly 40% of Americans would be open to trying these options. This is encouraging for plant-based meat manufacturers. First, only about 5% of Americans identify themselves as vegans so that means that omnivores make up the bulk of the plant-based meat market. These eaters – known as flexitarians, and increasingly companies are trying to reach them by creating imitation poultry, beef, and even seafood.
Beyond Meat, Flexible Foods, and Greenleaf Foods have rolled out plant-based chicken nuggets, hamburger patties, Italian sausage, and field roast for the increasingly large flexitarian market. Good Catch has attempted imitation crab and fish cakes for seafood lovers transitioning into a more plant-friendly diet. There is even a push for plant-based Kosher products, as unveiled by Upton Naturals which features banana blossoms soaked in brine to mimic the flaky-fishy taste many consumers have come to enjoy.
With COVID disrupting American restaurant dining and work schedules, nearly half of all Americans reported an increase in snacking. With this new trend came an opportunity for Meatless snacks. Conagra Foods remains well known for its frozen plant-based meat entrees. It is now manufacturing meatless jerky made from soy and wheat protein with flavors like Teriyaki and Hot and Spicy. Other customers interested in pork rinds, can try Beanfield PBC’s Vegan Cracklins made from bean flour and protein. It remains to be seen how well these items will compete with Slim Jim’s and Beef Jerky. The last 11 months seem very promising, with plant-based meat snacks doubling their product launches.
While many consumers are warming up to plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, there are still many obstacles the industry faces. For all the clamoring these products receive, many vegans are leery of plant meat, citing health concerns about the way it is processed. Additionally, by their own admission, many companies know that their offerings lack the texture and taste of meats and dairy. This is especially a problem with plant-based milk and cheese.
Finally, while dropping in price plant-based meat and dairy are expensive. A big reason for this is a problem of scale. Industrial meat and dairy industries operate on a far larger scale than the relatively new and niche plant-based producers and can offer lower prices. However, with the enormous demand in America, this trend is likely to change over the next several years.
Most Americans willingly give soybeans and nuts a chance if their standards for taste and price are met. Ultimately, the future is hopeful for plants.
Chef Tony is a 42-year veteran of the food industry and is often known by his peers as “The New Product Guru.” Throughout his illustrious culinary career, he’s earned several notable titles and positions including Acquisition International’s “Most Influential Product Development Expert, U.S.” in 2019.
In 1997, Tony also founded Culinary Systems Inc., a group of culinary consultants that assist with culinary training, restaurant start-ups, concept development, and more. Since then, Tony and his team have generated over two billion dollars in sales for their clients in restaurants, retail, and manufacturing.
The strategic, technical, and culinary skills of Tony and his team can be seen on the menus of national chains, in the portfolio of national food manufacturers, and on the grocery shelves of products produced by major retail companies.