Plant-based sales boast 21% growth since 2020

3 April 2023

GFI Europe’s new analysis of NielsenIQ data from 13 countries finds sales of plant-based foods grew to a record €5.8 billion in 2022.

plant-based sales represented with an image of a plant-based pizza
Credit: Likemeat

Sales of plant-based foods across 13 European countries have grown by 21% since 2020 with the category reaching a record €5.8 billion, according to a new report

International nonprofit the Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe) analysed NielsenIQ data, finding sales of plant-based meat grew to €2 billion in 2022 – accounting for 6% of the overall pre-packaged meat market – while other categories, including plant-based seafood and cheese, saw double-digit growth.

The countries analysed were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Plant-based sales in the meat category remained strong 

The report found unit sales of plant-based meat grew 21% from 2020 to 2022, while conventional meat unit sales decreased by 8% in the same period.

The category was less badly impacted by inflation in 2022, with plant-based meat prices increasing by 1% while conventional meat prices increased by 11%. 

The value of plant-based meat sales increased by 3% last year – a deceleration in the rate of growth following a strong 2021, when sales grew by 16% to €1.96 billion.

Plant-based milk was the most developed category

The report found plant-based milk is the most developed category, now making up 11% of the overall milk market, with sales growing by 19% between 2020 and 2022 – almost twice as much as conventional milk – to reach €2.21 billion last year.

While plant-based milk unit sales grew 20% between 2020 and 2022, conventional milk unit sales decreased by 9% in the same period.  

This category was less badly affected by inflation, with plant-based milk prices increasing by 1% last year, while conventional milk increased by 17%.

Plant-based cheese sales increased 102% between 2020 and 2022 in the countries where data was available – more than 10 times as much as conventional cheese – reaching €144 million.

While plant-based cheese unit sales grew 153% in this period, conventional cheese unit sales decreased by 4%.  

This was another category to be less badly impacted by inflation, with plant-based cheese prices decreasing by 3% last year, while conventional cheese increased by 12%.

Other categories

Unit sales of plant-based yoghurt grew by 16% between 2020 and 2022, while conventional yoghurt sales decreased by 4%. The average price of plant-based yoghurt increased by 2%, whereas conventional yoghurt prices increased by 10% last year.

Plant-based seafood unit sales expanded by over 300% in this period. While this is the fastest growing category, it remains the least developed, with sales of just €43 million in 2022 – but the average price per unit dropped by 4% last year. 

There were also advances in categories such as plant-based cream, ice cream and ready meals – which saw sales values increase by 79% from 2020 to 2022.

More support needed to help sector grow

But, while the report’s findings show positive signs of progress for the plant-based sector, GFI Europe, which works to advance plant-based meat and other sustainable proteins, is calling for more public and private investment in research and infrastructure to scale up production and reduce prices. 

Research has found that plant-based meat causes up to 98% less emissions and uses up to 93% less land and 99% less water than conventional meat – and it will be impossible for governments to meet their Paris Agreement targets without addressing emissions from meat production.

Carlotte Lucas, Senior Corporate Engagement Manager at GFI Europe, said: “These figures show Europe’s appetite for plant-based foods is continuing to grow – but these sustainable options still represent a tiny proportion of the market.

“European companies and governments have a critical role to play in supporting consumers to make more sustainable choices. Companies must continue investing in product innovation to develop delicious and affordable plant-based options. And governments must invest in the research and infrastructure we need to reduce prices and improve the quality of plant-based options, in order to deliver on their climate targets and enhance food security.”