Sales of plant-based foods across a group of more than a dozen European countries grew by 22% from 2020 to 2022, a new report has found.
Category sales reached a record €5.7 billion in 2022, according to the Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe), which analysed NielsenIQ retail data for products ranging from yogurt alternatives to ready meals.
The countries included in the report were Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the UK.
Among the findings, unit sales of plant-based meat grew 21% from 2020 to 2022, while animal meat witnessed a decline of 8%. Rampant inflation saw prices in the latter category rise by 11% last year – compared with a modest 1% increase for plant protein substitutes.
Plant-based meat products often retail at a premium compared with their animal counterparts, and these higher prices have been cited as a factor stymying the market’s expansion.
Last August, Beyond Meat’s president and CEO, Ethan Brown, said that cash-strapped consumers were trading down to lower-priced chicken and beef, hurting growth. However, some markets have made great strides in bringing prices more into line with animal products, such as the Netherlands, where the findings of a Questionmark survey last year suggested that plant-based substitutes are now cheaper on average than meat.
The new research from GFI also found that plant-based milk now makes up 11% of the overall milk market, with sales of €2.21 billion last year.
In value terms, the category recorded almost double the sales growth seen by conventional milk between 2020 and 2022. This gulf was more pronounced when it came to unit sales, which declined by 9% in the dairy category, but were up by 20% for alternatives.
Other categories saw triple-digit growth during the period. Unit sales of dairy-free cheese were up 153% in the countries where data was available, while plant-based seafood unit sales increased by over 300%.
GFI Europe, which works to promote alternative proteins, said that companies and governments still have a vital role to play in helping consumers to make more sustainable food choices.
Carlotte Lucas, senior corporate engagement manager at the organisation, said: “These figures show Europe’s appetite for plant-based foods is continuing to grow – but these sustainable options still represent a tiny proportion of the market”.
She added: “Companies must continue investing in product innovation to develop delicious and affordable plant-based options. And governments must invest in the research and infrastructure we need to reduce prices and improve the quality of plant-based options, in order to deliver on their climate targets and enhance food security.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023
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