Though the space has made strides to cast a wider net of potential consumers, only 15% of US households purchased its products in 2023.

Plant-based meat sales continue to decline as consumers demand lower prices and higher quality

Courtesy of Plant Based Foods Association

Dive Brief:

  • Plant-based meat and seafood sales declined in 2023 for the second year in a row, according to the Good Food Institute’s State of the Industry report. Retail food dollar sales in the category were $8.1 billion in 2023, a slight decline from $8.2 billion in 2022, indicating that plant-based foods are still falling short on consumer expectations of taste, texture and affordability. 
  • The sector has responded to declining demand by targeting a wider net of consumers, specifically those who follow an omnivore diet, the report said. Ninety-five percent of plant-based eaters also reported eating conventional meat, the report said, making up a significant chunk of market share.
  • Leading plant-based companies are promoting their products as better-for-you and the environment, rather than simply as «plant-based» so as not to discourage potential customers.

Dive Insight:

When it comes to purchasing plant-based meats, consumers prioritize taste, availability, quality, and health benefits.

Familiarity, awareness, and trials of plant-based foods have grown dramatically over the last decade. But in recent years, the number of households purchasing has leveled off or declined for some plant-based categories, according to the report. 

Nearly half of U.S. households purchased plant-based milk at least one time in 2023, whereas plant-based meat and seafood were purchased by only 15 percent of households. 

The GFI State of the Industry Report is an annual pulse check on plant-based foods that looks at data from investments in the space, consumer research, commercial and foodservice sales and more.

“Consumers continue to see higher prices at the shelf, making the price gap between plant-based and their conventional counterparts a relevant challenge to plant-based brands hoping to reach a broader swath of consumers,” the report said. 

Besides affordability, however, the quality of the actual plant-based meat products has also been a deterrent to potential consumers. 

Taste parity was a major investment and top priority for researchers and manufacturers in 2023, the report said. 

“New farming techniques that optimize plant protein cultivation, innovative uses of agricultural by-products, and research to create processes and ingredients that more closely mimic the sensory attributes of conventional meat, seafood, egg, and dairy products,” were some ways the industry advanced. 

Companies have made strides to tackle the taste and texture of products. Last week, Beyond Meat launched its new burger product at retail, which uses avocado oil instead of canola and better quality plant protein sources like fava beans and lentils. 

Daring, a plant-based chicken company, has a high quality frozen product with a very short list of ingredients. 

Looking ahead to 2024, companies should continue to make changes to bring prices down, and create a product that more closely resembles the characteristics of conventional meat, according to GFI.

“Words such as “shakeout,” “normalization,” and “stabilization” were frequently used to describe the dynamics of the plant-based meat sector in 2023,” the report said, and the factors that shaped the industry last year, will likely extend into this year.

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