A new association based in Washington was formed to champion manufacturers of meat alternatives, from tofu and tempeh, dairy replacements and vegan foods. The Plant Based Foods Association comprises 23 food companies, and is the first trade group to represent the $3.-billion plant-based foods sector. Its mission is to engage in education, promotion and advance policies to meet the increasing consumer demand for plant-based foods.
"Every other sector of the food industry – from sugar to organics - is represented in the policy arena," says Michele Simon, executive director of The Plant Based Foods Association. "The time has come for the plant-based food industry to also have a collective voice."
The group says it plans to educate retailers, food service professionals and consumers about the myriad benefits of plant-based eating. Numerous health organizations such as the American Heart Association and international institutions such as the United Nations recognize the need to shift towards a plant-based diet, for both health and environmental benefits. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future recommends cutting back on meat not just for health and the environment, but also due to concerns for animal welfare, risks to workers and antibiotic resistance. Consumers are increasingly listening to these recommendations.
According to newly-released data from SPINS, a retail sales data company for natural and specialty products, the total market for this sector, (excluding data from Whole Foods Market) tops nearly $3.5 billion in sales. The category includes plant-based versions of meat, tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese and cream, and has grown more than 8.7 percent in the last two years. Comparatively, growth in the general food and beverage sector has been just 3.7 percent over the same period.
Driving the growth are plant-based milks, which has $2.1 billion in sales and enjoyed 14.4 percent growth in total sales volume over the last two years. Plant-based meats, including meatless burgers, nuggets, tempeh, and tofu drives more than $865 million in sales, with burgers representing the largest portion of the category, and tofu leading the growth at 7 percent over the last two years. Major advances in flavor and mouthfeel are giving plant-based yogurts, though still a smaller sub-category, more growth, which has topped 12.7 percent in two years.
Kora Lazarski, SPINS’ strategic alliance manager, says the new trade association is focused on developing the industry further, and "expects these figures to continue to grow in the coming years as new products are launched to meet consumer interest and demand."
The association is working with healthy and sustainable food advocate Elizabeth Kucinich, who recently provided remarks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how the Dietary Guidelines for Americans should urge a shift to a plant-based diet to bolster public health and help protect the environment.
"Combined with the rising demands of conscious consumers, the Plant Based Foods Association can help shift public policy towards a better, more sustainable food system," Kucinich said.
The association's founding board members are, Daiya Foods, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko’s Kitchen, The Tofurky Co. and Upton’s Natural. In addition, 18 food companies have joined as charter members of the Plant Based Foods Association.