Sales of plant-based meat substitutes grew by 18% in the US last year, new data shows, with further growth expected as new products continue to hit the market.

The sector is now worth $1bn, the Financial Times reported, as offering meat substitutes goes mainstream and is increasingly offered in restaurants.

Plant-based food sales in total were up 11%, growing to $5bn in 2019. That compares with 2% growth in the overall US retail food market, according to data from the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association.

Concerns about the impact of animal farming and meat consumption on climate change, as well as standards of animal welfare and ethical questions surrounding meat eating, appear to be driving the surge in sales.

The fact that there are many more meat-free protein products on offer, from start-up companies as well as food-producing giants, such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s, is also making it far easier for consumers to experiment with going meat-free.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) says 14% of households in the US now buy plant-based meat products.

“Plant-based meat continued to be a hot topic for food companies, with upcoming launches and innovations,” analysts at Bernstein, the research group, told the FT.

“Clearly, companies see this plant-based trend as an area for growth, though competition is increasing fiercely.”

GFI, a consulting group that lobbies for the use of alternative proteins, says the retail data strongly suggest plant-based food is not a just a “bubble or a fad”.

“This is a tipping point, with so much product innovation yet to hit the market,” Caroline Bushnell, associate director of corporate engagement, told the FT.

The increased sales – and so increased production – of plant-based meat has meant reduced manufacturing costs.

Meat substitutes are also on the rise when it comes to dining out. The FT noted that Dining Alliance, the leading US purchasing group for restaurants, saw a 268% increase in sales volumes in 2019.

Sales of plant-based milk, which is the largest category of plant-based food, were responsible for $2bn of sales – 14% of market share. Almond milk is the leading product, but oat milk is the fastest-growing plant-based milk, seeing revenue growth of 690% last year.

Sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff