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Americas: More consumers eat plant-based foods for health

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The market for plant-based alternatives is still evolving as consumers begin to leverage these items because of food allergies or they are seeking what they believe to be more healthful options, says The NPD Group.

The plant-based alternatives buzz is likely due more people living vegan (avoids all animal products), vegetarian (avoids meat products), or flexible vegetarian (mainly vegetarian with some exceptions) lifestyles.

However, NPD Group’s ongoing tracking of eating attitudes and behaviors finds very few follow the most restrictive vegan/vegetarian diets.

Only 1% of the population claims to be vegan or vegetarian and 8% say they are flexible vegetarians, or about 27 million actually claim to follow a plant-based diet such as vegan, vegetarian or flexible vegetarian.

The 27 million consumers claiming to follow a plant-based diet are not necessarily consuming plant-based dairy and meat alternatives since the number who actually consume plant-based dairy or meat alternatives is approximately 25 million.

Annual eatings per capita of dairy alternatives have grown from 19 in 2013 to 21 in 2016 or 6.8 billion eatings and the consumption of plant-based meat alternatives has declined from five in 2013 to three or 972 million eatings in 2016.

Consumption of plant-based alternatives still pales in comparison to dairy and meat intake.

Compared to the three annual eatings per capita of plant-based meat alternatives the average person consumes center-of-plate meat 73 times annually or what amounts to a total 23.3 billion eatings.

Annual eatings per capita of milk is 117 or 37.9 billion eatings compared to the 21 annual eatings per capita of plant-based dairy alternatives.

“Plant-based dairy and meat alternatives may not appeal to everyone, but today’s consumers are taking a personal approach in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and plant based alternatives are among the many choices at their disposal,” says David Portalatin, VP, industry analyst for Food and author of Eating Patterns in America.

“Expanding consumer choice and empowering them to craft their own path may provide growth opportunities for manufacturers and retailers in this space.”