Plant-based food sales dip in 2023 as inflation cuts volume

The Plant Based Food Association found dollar and unit sales increased in five categories. Learn more from PBFA’s State of the Marketplace report.

Victoria A.F. Camron, Digital content specialist

May 22, 2024

4 Min Read
Plant Based Food Association releases State of the Marketplace 2023 report

Total U.S. sales of plant-based foods dropped 2.2% to $8.1 billion in 2023, the Plant Based Food Association reports in its newest State of the Marketplace reports.

Of course, thanks to inflation, dollar sales increased more than unit sales—but the same happened in animal-based foods, PBFA found in an October report, Understanding Consumer Shopping Behavior/Beliefs Across Plant/Animal-Based Categories.

Across all categories, total food and beverage dollar sales increased 6.1% in 2023. Conventional animal-based food and beverage sales grew 3.5%, according to SPINS data cited in the State of the Marketplace report. This year’s report includes sales in physical stores through e-commerce in chain stores, natural retailers and convenience stores.


“As plant-based foods gradually continue to grow in convenience stores, increasing assortment can raise awareness and accessibility for all consumers, helping normalize plant-based foods more broadly,” the report states.

A longer look at history offers a better picture of the state of plant-based foods, however.

Since 2020, retail sales have increased 14%, while food service sales have grown 25%. The Association credits innovation in technology, flavors, ingredients and styles for the overall increase. For example, fava beans have become a key ingredient in plant-based seafood and meats, while mung beans are now common in plant-based eggs.

Related:OTA: USDA Organic market posts record sales in 2023


Food service has offered consumers across the country the opportunity to sample plant-based foods. In 2023, the share of plant-based meat in food service increased 45.6% in fast-casual restaurants, according to the PBFA report.

Consumers’ experiences might lead to increased sales in the coming year: A Technomic survey cited in the report found that 91% of respondents plan to maintain or increase their plant-based food purchases. PBFA’s own survey in November determined that 69% of respondents purchase plant-based foods in grocery stores.


Dollar and unit sales increased in five categories

Innovation in plant-based foods has changed the Association’s methodology for its annual report. While it once tracked sales in six categories, it now tracks sales in 20 categories.

Plant-based milk sales increased 4.2% CAGR over two years to reach $2.9 billion in 2023—the largest category PBFA tracks. Creamer, the third-largest category by dollars, showed the highest growth, 16.2% CAGR over two years, to reach $701 million in sales in 2023.

Interestingly, the average retail prices of animal-based creamer and ice cream rose much higher than the prices of those products’ plant-based alternatives. Similarly, the price of animal-based yogurt increased 40% more than that of plant-based yogurt, according to the report.

Related:Healthy Trends Report shows how consumers define healthy eating

Foods and beverages in five plant-based categories had sales increases in both dollars and units: creamers, ready-to-drink beverages, protein liquids and powers, baked goods and eggs.


6 reasons consumers increase plant-based food purchases

PBFA’s 2023 marketplace report found that household penetration for plant-based food reached 62%, with a repeat buyer rate of 81%. But why are consumers buying plant-based foods?

Not surprisingly, health concerns are the No. 1 reason consumers purchase plant-based food. In its own survey, 80% of primary household grocery shoppers “consider themselves to be health conscious.” Of those same shoppers, 65% said they eat plant-based food “because they believe they are healthy.”

A Kroger survey also found that the belief that plant-based foods are healthier than animal-based food was the top driver of plant-based purchases; “personal health concerns” was the third most-common reason.

The top six reasons also included having a greater variety of products as the second most-popular; liking the taste, fourth; better for the environment, fifth; and not approving how animals are treated in factory farming, sixth.

Noting that 39% of survey respondents like the greater variety of plant-based foods and 34% like the taste, PBFA recommends that retailers offer a wider selection of products in clearly labeled, easily found spaces on the store floor to make the experience easier for shoppers. The Association also suggests retailers educate consumers on preparing plant-based foods.

Brands and retailers also should create partnerships for marketing campaigns and pricing promotions. E-commerce can also make it more convenient for consumers to try plant-based ready-to-eat meals or other plant-based groceries.

Click here to download a copy of the Plant Based Foods Association’s State of the Marketplace 2023 report. Association members receive a PDF of the report and a file of its charts for free. The cost for non-members is $500.

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About the Author(s)

Victoria A.F. Camron

Digital content specialist, New Hope Network

Victoria A.F. Camron was a freelance writer and editor contracted with New Hope Network from 2015 until April 2022, when she was hired as New Hope Network's digital content specialist—otherwise known as the web editor.

As she continues the work she has done for years—covering the natural products industry for and Natural Foods Merchandiser; writing up earnings calls and other corporate news; and curating roundups of trends and information for the website—she is thrilled to be an official part of the New Hope team. (She doesn't mind having paid holidays and vacations again, though!) Victoria also compiled and edited newsletters, and served as interim content director for Delicious Living in 2016.

Before working as a freelancer, she spent 17 years in community newspapers in Longmont, Colorado, and St. Charles and Wheaton, Illinois. Victoria is a Colorado native and a graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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