Burgers may still outsell other meat-substitute protein products, but product that mimic meatballs are leading in terms of growth, according to new research by The NPD Group.
The new report says plant-based proteins are gaining acceptance among all U.S. consumer groups. Higher demand for plant-based proteins is evidence by a 19% growth in cases of the products shipped in the fiscal year ending March 2018. In-home consumption trends are also showing an increase in consumer demand with a 24 percent increase since 2015.
With 60 percent of U.S. consumers telling NPD they want to get more protein in their diets, consumers are mixing both meat and plant-based proteins into their diets. In a recent NPD survey, 14 percent of U.S. consumers, which translates to over 43 million consumers, regularly use plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu, and veggie burgers, and 86 percent of these consumers do not consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.
The heaviest users of plant-based foods are those who are more likely to be on a diet or to have a medical condition, and consumers who tend to think of food as fuel, are more convenience-oriented than others and less confident in their cooking skills.
Beef alternatives make up 44 percent of the plant-based categories being shipped to independent and micro-chain restaurant operators and are the primary contributor to the total category’s growth. Burgers are the largest beef alternative category but ball products, like meatless meatballs, used as ingredients have outpaced burgers and all other plant-based protein formats in terms of growth.
“It’s clear by the growth in plant-based protein case shipments to foodservice and restaurant operators that this category has mainstreamed beyond those who choose a meatless diet,” says David Portalatin, industry advisor for NPD’s Food Sector. “Food manufacturers and operators have really improved the quality and taste of plant-based foods over the past several years and these foods are appealing to a variety of consumer segments for a variety of reasons.”