Alternative types of vegan milks in bottles on a yellow background, Various vegan plant based milk and ingredients, non-dairy milk, alternative milk, flat lay, top view with copy space

Retail sales of plant-based food in the U.S. are still on the rise — total market value reached a new high of $7.4 billion last year, up from $6.9 billion in 2020, according to new data released by the Plant Based Foods Association

Following a record year of growth in 2020 (+28%), plant-based dollar sales were up 6.2% in 2021, outpacing the growth of total food sales (+1.9%). Over the past three years, plant-based sales have increased by 54%.

Plant-based dairy products boost sales 

Leading the way for plant-based growth, plant-based milk brought in $2.6 billion in sales in 2021, up $105 million (a 4% increase) from 2020. For comparison, a drop in animal-based milk sales contributed to a loss of $264 million (-2%) for the overall milk category last year. Plant-based milk sales have grown 33% over the past three years, and the category now accounts for 16% of all retail milk dollar sales in conventional channels.

Sales of other plant-based dairy products reached $2.1 billion in 2021, with most of the growth in plant-based creamers (+33%). Plant-based egg sales only reached $39 million last year, but this was a 42% increase from 2020. The category’s three-year growth was a remarkable +1,000%. Meanwhile, conventional egg dollar sales dropped by 4% last year.

While dollar sales of plant-based meat remained steady at $1.4 billion in 2021, three-year growth for the category came in at +74%. And three-year unit sales growth for plant-based meat (+51%) far surpassed that of conventional meat (+9%). However, despite its strong growth, plant-based meat still only makes up a small fraction of total meat sales — last year, the category’s share of retail packaged meat dollar sales was 2.7% and its share of the total meat category was 1.4%.

Supplier Catalog - BeekeeperMore households adding plant-based products to their carts

With plant-based foods showing up on grocery store shelves in 30 categories, it’s no surprise that more consumers are trying out and stocking up on these products. Household penetration reached 79 million (62%) in 2021, up from 77 million (61%) in 2020. Repeat purchases rose slightly too, increasing from 78% to 79%. 

Younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z), who represent nearly half of the current population, are likely to continue to drive up demand. And as plant-based food becomes increasingly accessible, with more variety and innovative products hitting the market, plant-based retail sales are bound to keep growing.