The market for plant-based food in Europe has seen a huge growth spurt, with new products that are delicious, affordable, and convenient driving the trend. Consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives to animal-derived products for health, ecological, and ethical reasons, and companies must continue to invest in innovative plant-based products to meet this demand.
In 2022, retail sales of plant-based foods in Europe reached an impressive €5.8 billion, up 6% from the previous year. This upward trend has continued, with a 21% surge in sales since 2020. Despite challenges like geopolitical tensions and inflation, both the economic values and unit sales of plant-based foods have continued to rise, showing a strong and consistent consumer demand.
Excellence in Unit Sales: Markets that stand out
Plant-based milk is the leader in unit sales, with an impressive 1.3 billion units sold in 2022. The market grew 20% from 2020 to 2022, solidifying its position as a leader in the market. This impressive growth rate results from the increasing demand for plant-based milk among consumers seeking healthier and more sustainable alternatives to traditional dairy products. Not far behind, plant-based meat sales are the second best-performing market growing by 19% from 2020 to 2022 up to €2.0 billion in 2022.
Product Categories: A Remarkable Showcase
Plant-based seafood, meals, and spreads are the fastest-growing categories in terms of sales value, showing a clear and growing appeal to consumers. The plant-based seafood segment has witnessed a monumental growth rate of over 326% since 2020 and is expected to continue its upward trajectory in the coming years even though it is the least developed category. The growing popularity of plant-based meals and spreads can be attributed to the convenience and affordability of these products, which are also more sustainable and ethical than their traditional counterparts.
National Leaders in Product Excellence
Germany leads the way in plant-based food sales value with €1,911 million representing an increase of 11%, in 2022. Close second, the UK had a plant-based meat sales value of €1,077 million decreasing by minus 3%, and €426 million increasing by 3%. It is worth noting that Poland ranked 9th with €155 million but had a stunning increase of 54% as well as Romania with a plant-based meat sales value of €33 million and a remarkable increase of 23%.
In parallel, the Netherlands has the highest average per capita spending on plant-based meat products of €23.5 followed by Germany €23, Sweden €18.1, and Danemark €18. France ranks 11th with €6.1. This is an indication of the widespread adoption and acceptance of plant-based diets in these countries, which is driving the demand for innovative and delicious plant-based meat alternatives
Consumer Preferences and Purchasing Patterns
Consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based alternatives that match their expectations in terms of taste, affordability, and convenience. The efforts to offer superior plant-based substitutes have stimulated this growing demand, leading to the development of new and innovative plant-based products that cater to diverse consumer preferences and dietary restrictions.
Evolving Landscape of Product Categories and Prime Markets
Plant-based milk, meat, seafood, meals, cheese, yogurt, and spreads are all gaining traction in the market. The sales of plant-based milk reached €2.2 billion, while plant-based meat sales surpassed €2.0 billion in 2022. The plant-based seafood segment witnessed the highest growth rate of over 326% euro sales growth since 2020, while plant-based cheese, yogurt, and spreads all saw substantial growth rates as well. The evolving landscape of product categories and prime markets underscores the growing appeal of plant-based diets among consumers, and the increasing demand for innovative and delicious plant-based alternatives.
Shift in Landscape: A Comparison with Animal-Based Foods
The surge in unit sales of plant-based milk, meat, and cheese categories in 2022 outpaced their animal-based counterparts, highlighting the changing consumer landscape. This shift is an indication of the growing awareness and acceptance of plant-based diets, and the increasing demand for healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical food choices.
Furthermore, this could be the reflection of the effect of inflation given that prices of animal meat rose by 11% during the study period while plant-based meat only rose by 1%.
Plant-based foods assert themselves as formidable contenders against traditional animal-derived products, with continued investments in pioneering product developments. The burgeoning plant-based food market presents a lucrative avenue for businesses to meet growing consumer demand, all while contributing to the establishment of a more sustainable and ethical food system. The ongoing development of new and innovative plant-based products is a testament to the industry’s commitment to providing consumers with healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical food choices, and the future of food looks bright.