Sales of plant-based food reached a record $5 billion in 2019, and the sales growth has increased during the pandemic. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat get a lot of attention in their attempt to replicate meat. However, traditional plant-based companies have been around longer and focus on using plants with less processing involved.
One of these companies is Amy’s Kitchen, which has offered plant-based foods since 1988. Food Industry Executive spoke with CEO Xavier Unkovic about plant-based food trends and how Amy’s continues to move forward in developing plant-based options.
“At Amy’s we’ve been cooking plant based for years…long before it was cool,” said Unkovic. “We know plant-based is better for consumer and planet health, so it’s very exciting to see more and more consumers seeking out plant-based foods.”
“When it comes to health, consumers are turning to food as medicine, especially with the onset of COVID, and incorporating more nutrient-rich plants and plant sources into their diets,” he said. “There’s also more variety and better tasting options than ever before, so consumers are enjoying the plant-based eating experience and returning for more.”
Unkovic acknowledged COVID-related problems in the meat industry have likely contributed to increases in plant-based sales this year. But he also believes consumers increasingly replacing meat with plant-based sources is driven, first and foremost, by taste and the desire to eat healthier and make better decisions for the planet.
In addition, consumers are stretched thin now and need fast, convenient meal solutions, without sacrificing nutrition and quality. “In the frozen aisle, where many consumers go for ease and convenience, we saw double-digit growth beginning in early March and recent data tells us that frozen sales will continue to trend higher in the months ahead,” said Unkovic.
Unkovic believes it’s important for food companies to listen to consumers and pay attention to what they like and what they need. Companies must continue to innovate and give consumers variety and great tasting plant-based options. “Data tells us that when consumers purchase plant-based, they typically return for more and tend to spend more upon their return, so we need to meet that need at shelf,” said Unkovic.
As for companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Unkovic said the more people who incorporate plant based into their diets, the better. But he emphasized Amy’s food is made from whole, organic ingredients and cooked in real kitchens, much the way consumers would cook at home. He believes as consumers become more familiar with plant-based, they’ll become more discerning about the ingredients and processes that go into making their food.
“At Amy’s, we’ve always believed that the best way to gain and maintain consumer trust is to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest or most efficient option,” said Unkovic. “We are deeply committed to organic, high-quality, great-tasting food, and have built consumer trust and strong loyalty by staying true to our commitment.”