A closer look at: the plant-based food trend

02 December 2021, 10:22 AM
  • The explosion of interest in vegan food and drink has rocketed the sector to new heights over recent years, and that’s set to continue in 2022
A closer look at: the plant-based food trend

Read about more food and drink trends for 2022 here.

“There has been a staggering rise in the number of plant-based meat and fish products in recent months,” explains Philip Linardos, co-founder and CEO of ShelfNow, a marketplace for specialist brands. At ShelfNow, he says, sales of vegetarian and vegan food and drink have risen by over 150% in the past 12 months. What is next for the plant-based sector?

Bloomberg Intelligence’s report, Plant-Based Foods Poised for Explosive Growth, says that if plant-based meat follows in the footsteps of alternative milks, its value will jump from $4.2bn to as much as $118bn by 2030. Despite this, Heather Morris, co-founder of consultancy SHFoodie, is confident that veggies are poised to become the true hero of our plates rather than the supporting act. “Plant-based products will continue to push the boundaries with technology to produce ever more realistic meat alternatives, but plants are also set to be centre stage; not mimicking meat but coming into their own as meal centres, particularly for the increasing number of flexitarian consumers who are simply reducing the amount of meat they consume and increasing the amount and variety of vegetables on their plate,” she says.

“Root, a restaurant local to us in Bristol is a great example for making veg the hero ingredients on your plate with meat or fish as the supporting act,” she continues.

Those seeking out alternative dairy will also see an abundance of new products on the shelves, Philip says. “We see this trend remaining on the ascent for some time to come – the number of vegan dessert offerings on our platform has risen by 82% in 2021.”

Taking the plant-based trend further

As the plant-based food sector becomes ingrained into the wider industry, expectations are set to rise, according to Heather at SHFoodie. “We always find with categories that become mainstream that further focus on quality and, in particular, what goes into the products becomes more of interest once they are no longer novel; consumers always want more from their food than to simply stop them being hungry.”

She points to soya “taking a bit of flak over environmental concerns” and ingredients in plant-based foods, like stabilisers and processing aids, which have come under the spotlight. “Plant-based products will continue to proliferate, that’s inevitable, but they will need to become more environmentally aware with product labelling on pack about carbon footprint and sustainability adding more overtly to the choice criteria, reflecting the increasing mood in the country for action on climate and environment,” she says.

Focus on: vegan milk

A third of Brits use plant-based milk today, according to research by Mintel, up from a quarter in 2020, and total spending on vegan milk has grown 32% to reach £394m in 2020. In the UK, oat milk is the most popular variety, but more innovation is driving new products.

“Grain milk is another development to watch, and it’s currently the fastest-growing dairy-free milk with barley milk, in particular, proving highly popular amongst many consumers,” Philip says. Heather also identifies potato-based milk DUG as one to watch. “DUG potato milk is one example of a new product pushing the sustainability message further as well as showcasing their great tasting product,” she says.

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