As the grocery, c-store and restaurant industries are responding to the increasing demand for plant-based foods, operators need to understand this new channel of opportunity for maximizing micro market sales. Next year’s Plant Based World Expo at Javits Center in New York City, September 7-8, 2023, is a great place to start.
Plant-based foods are becoming more popular than ever. Not only is this supported by consumption data, but the big jump in attendance at the recent 2022 Plant Based World Expo (PBW) shows that food sellers are paying attention. There were 3,722 attendees, up 20% from 2021, and there were a record 232 exhibitors at the show.
Automatic Merchandiser’s latest State of the Industry report released in early summer 2022 examined the growth of plant-based foods. “In the overall retail and foodservice economy, sales of plant-based foods grew three times faster than total food sales in 2021, according to data compiled by the Plant Based Foods Association, the Good Food Institute and wellness-focused research firm SPINS. Their data showed plant-based growth at 6.2% in 2021, bringing the total plant-based market value to a record high of $7.4 billion. Likewise, micro markets and vending installations saw their strongest year in plant-based sales.”
Ben Davis, strategic advisor for Plant Based World, said the attendance at the 2022 PBW was a major confirmation of the growth of the industry. “It's clear that the plant-based market is reaching a maturing phase. Products are becoming more diverse, filling gaps in the marketplace, and most importantly, they are steadily getting tastier and more affordable, which is key for bringing in new customers,” Davis said.
Davis noted that Plant Based World Expo is the only 100% plant-based event in the U.S., designed exclusively for foodservice professionals, retailers, distributors, buyers, brokers and non-profits. “Plant Based World connects and empowers businesses within the global supply network to successfully develop, source and distribute plant-based products,” Davis added.
A Mondelēz International study, in conjunction with the Harris Poll, identified some current snacking trends that clearly favor the consumption of plant-based foods at snack time, which Davis said are often perceived as more substantive than traditional snacks, making for a perfect meal substitute. “Higher protein and higher fiber content in plant-based snacks make the difference,” Davis added, noting that while there are no industry studies regarding plant-based snacks being more filling than other snacks, it certainly reflects the feedback that vendors received at the recent show.The study notes that the role of snacking continues to evolve with a trend toward balanced diets with indulgence and eating throughout the day.
Davis feels that convenience services operators are important to the plant-based food industry because snacks have the potential to lead the way, introducing consumers to these alternative products. “There are more plant-based products than ever in convenience stores, including a new Beef Jerky from Beyond Meat,” he said. “We are in the early stages of a long-term trend toward meat alternative products that will be accelerated by quality, selection and availability.”
Davis said that health and environment continue to be the two main factors that are driving the growth of plant-based snacks. “There is substantial science showing that consuming animal foods can cause disease,” he explained. “Animal welfare remains a key component as well, though the industry tends to shy away from that and focus on the health and sustainability benefits of plant-based products. Even when products are more heavily processed, many consumers choose plant-based over an animal-based product because of the ‘better-for-you’ qualities of the plant-based choice.”According to Davis, the younger generations (millennials and Gen Z) are core drivers for the growth due to heightened awareness of the health and environmental impact of their food choices. “As the plant-based food market matures, we are seeing acceptance by older consumers as well,” he added.
Reflecting on the 2022 PBW show, Davis said that the most popular booths featured plant-based products made in collaboration with chefs, offering prepared, frozen and often diverse ethnic offerings such as tikka masala, dumplings and spring rolls.
“PBW is the only place to experience everything the plant-based market has to offer all under one roof,” Davis said. “The show also features multiple stages of educational sessions and keynotes specifically geared to help food buyers better understand and implement plant-based foods in their strategy. PBW also offers our ‘Connect!’ Matchmaking Program for any eager buyers looking to set up pre-vetted one-on-one meetings with potential manufacturers prior to the show even opening.”
Show organizers expect enormous growth at the upcoming 2023 PBW show. In an interview with Trade Show News Network, Chris Nemchek, general manager of PBW, was enthusiastic about the direction of the show. “The Plant Based World Expo launched in 2019 with tremendous momentum and excitement,” he said. “Since that time, in spite of COVID-related postponements and date changes, PBW has tripled in net square feet sold. Investments are pouring into plant-based brands and products, and consumer demand is increasing exponentially. We expect that when we return to the Javits Center Sept. 7-8, 2023, the show floor will have grown by another 50%.”
Operators can learn more about the 2023 Plant Based World Expo at www.plantbasedworldexpo.com.
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