Tofu and almond milk aren’t just for vegans anymore. Before you say “eww.” chew on this: in 2016, the U.S. plant-based market topped $5 billion in sales. Leading the charge is plant-based “milk.” Dairy alternatives alone are expected to grow globally from $8.2 billion in 2014 to $19.5 billion in 2020, says the Plant Based Foods Association.
Add that nearly 87% of Americans eat plant protein and 62% do so at least once a week, according to research by ORC International for LightLife, it’s a ripe opportunity for major food companies.
Take Tyson Foods for example. In October 2016, the poultry giant bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein startup that makes burgers out of ingredients like pea protein isolate, potato starch, and beet juice extract. Tyson made the investment in the plant-based startup out of Tyson New Ventures, a venture capital fund that concentrates on commercializing delicious, safe, and affordable alternative proteins.
Also tapping into the growing plant-fueled market is 301 INC., General Mills’ investment and business development arm. Earlier this year, 301 INC. invested in D’s Naturals, a startup that’s spearheading a “No Cow Revolution.” Their protein bars and spreads are free of dairy, soy, gluten, and bioengineered ingredients. The products are low in sugar to boot.
The plant-based market will continue growing and the food companies who offer alternative protein and dairy options for their customers show they’re willing to grow, too.