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Gulfood Green 2024

20 Mar 2024

10 Plant-Based Food Facts to Understand the State of the Industry

10 Plant-Based Food Facts to Understand the State of the Industry

The meat and dairy industries alone are driving the world to exceed critical levels of global warming and reducing emissions from energy generation down to zero alone would not be enough to compensate for it. Thankfully, the rapidly growing plant-based sector has the potential to be the lifeline the planet needs. Sales of alternative food have boomed in recent years and so have investments in startups and companies developing new environmentally friendly proteins. To celebrate Veganuary 2024, Earth.Org has put together 10 interesting plant-based food facts that will help you understand the state of the industry.


10 Interesting Plant-Based Food Facts1. Oats and soy are some of the most popular ingredients used in plant-based products 

Plant-based milk alternatives have become an established item on the lists of food shoppers. From soy and oat to coconut, rice, and almond milk, the selection is endless. The latter is currently leading the market and in 2021, it reached a sales value of USD$344 million. Thanks in large part to the huge success of the Swedish brand Oatly, oat milk has grown exponentially in recent years. The fact that oats are a sustainable crop that is not associated with deforestation or excessive need for water and, unlike dairy, soy, or nuts, they are inherently allergy-friendly, make them a great milk alternative.

As for plant-based foods, along with protein-rich foods such as peas, beans, and mushrooms, one of the most common ingredients used in the production of meat substitutes is soy. Soy derivatives such as tofu and tempeh are commonly found in plant-based meat because of their distinctive, meat-like texture. Since the 1950s, global soybean production has increased 15-fold, with the US, Brazil, and Argentina accounting for nearly 80% of the global soy production. While the detrimental impact of soy plantations on the environment is often the centre of heated debates – as the soaring demand for this legume leads to wide-scale deforestation, soil erosion and water contamination – many wrongly blame the plant-based industry for it. Yet, nearly 90% of the world’s soybeans are fed to farmed animals, while just 6% is turned into soy-based products for human consumption.

2. US retail sales of plant-based foods grew by 6.2% in 2021

In 2021, unprecedented demand sparked large-scale production of new plant-based meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products, with large food companies, startups, and retailers stepping up efforts and resources to develop high-quality plant-based food.

Despite pandemic-driven supply chain disruptions and the global economic crisis, 2021 sales in the US charted impressive growth for the third year in a row, increasing by 54% between 2018 and 2021. Furthermore, sales of alternative proteins outpaced their animal-based counterparts, growing three times faster than that of the total food retail sales. 

3. Plant-based milk is the most developed of all alt protein categories

Alternative milk is by far the largest category in the plant-based market and it continues to benefit from product innovation and expanded assortment. In 2021, plant-based drinks generated USD$2.6 billion in sales in 2021 alone, a 33% growth over just three years. Its animal-based counterpart (eg. cow’s and other animal milk), by contrast, recorded a loss of USD$264 million in the same year.

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