projected size of the global plant-based
market by 2030

The plant-based movement is having a major moment, and it shows no signs of slowing down. A recent report from the Plant-Based Food Association and The Good Foods Institute shows that in the U.S. alone, sales of plant-based foods reached $8 billion in 2022, growing 6.6% in just one year. And Mintel analysts predict that the global plant-based market could grow to $160 billion by 2030. 

This skyrocketing consumer interest in plant-based has touched nearly every retail category, expanding beyond alternative meats and non-dairy milks to include supplements, skin care, and more. “The plant-based trend is continuously evolving, expanding its influence beyond the realm of food to encompass various industries like apparel, consumer health, beauty and personal care, beverages, and even home care products,” explains Stephanie Guillen, Global Sales Director of the Nutra Division of Suanfarma. “The popularity of SKUs featuring plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian claims is on the rise, particularly in the beauty and personal care sector, surpassing food and beverages, with consumer health following closely behind.” 

Indeed, there’s been an explosion in the development of new plant-based products. Research from Mintel’s Global New Products Database shows the number of new packaged consumer goods launched with plant-based claims grew by 302% between 2018 and 2022. 

There are three main motivating factors that drive consumers to seek out plant-based products: health, sustainability and animal welfare, notes Ben Davis, Content Chair and Strategic Advisor for Plant Based World Expo. “In general, when people are seeking plant-based products, they are looking for a product that is free from any animal ingredients. This is based on the growing awareness around animal agriculture being an un-sustainable process and there being many negative health effects associated with consuming animal foods.” 

Natural health retailers are in a sweet spot to capitalize on growing demand for all things plant-based, but it’s important to keep in mind the different motivations for seeking out plant-based products in order to capture the broadest market share,” notes Davis. “Vegans, who vow to eat zero animal products, are typically motivated by animal welfare and make their decisions from an ethical standpoint. The younger generations driving the plant-based food trend tend to be a lot more motivated by sustainability. Having adopted a planet facing many environmental challenges, many young people are looking for anything within their control that can have a positive impact, leading them to evaluate their diet and eat more sustainably.” 

The perceived health benefits of a plant-based diet is another influential driving factor, says Auke Zeilstra, Managing Director for North America at FrieslandCampina Ingredients. In line with the growing interest in holistic well-being, consumers of all demographics are opting to include plant-based products to support a healthy and well-rounded diet. Diets rich in plant-based sources are often associated with lower saturated fats, cholesterol and higher fiber content which can be beneficial for overall health.” 

Adopting varied marketing approaches can help ensure that you’re appealing to every type of customer. “If most of your customers are environmentally conscious, then retailers can market their plant-based products based on sustainability, regenerative farming practices, and other benefits to the environment,” advises Nena Dockery, Scientific Affairs Manager, Stratum Nutrition. “For retailers whose customer base is mainly composed of customers who are very health conscious, then pointing out the benefits of a plant-based diet—or even just a plant-heavy diet—could draw in new customers.” 

Consumers also seek minimally processed products with recognizable ingredients. Dockery says, “Regardless of the category, whether it is a food, cosmetic, or supplement, more consumers are looking for cleaner, simpler labels with fewer preservatives, fillers, stabilizers, or other additive ingredients.” 

Highlighting companies that value transparency and third-party certification can help improve a product’s appeal, adds Nirmal Nair, CEO/Founder, Sempera Organics. “American grown and processed earns a lot of trust. Retailers should verify that the products have the right certifications and make consumers aware that they are taking the effort to screen out imitation or dubious products. Consumers want transparency of sources and certifications that help them make purchasing decisions. Non-GMO, Certified Organic, Kosher, Gluten-free are trusted certifications that score higher with discerning consumers.” 

To help your customers be able to identify plant-based products throughout your store, lean into labeling, says Sevanti Mehta, President, Unibar Corporation. “Creating general awareness of the store’s plant-based goods can help a consumer quickly pinpoint where these products are located. For example, using the same green icon or callouts in each aisle or on the product’s shelf can help sell these goods and increase consumer awareness. Additionally, providing educational materials through the store’s app or printed collateral can help consumers understand what they should look for in plant-based items.” 

Capitalizing on Opps in Plant-Based Foods  

There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of plant-based food products available on the market. “The days of soggy bean burgers and grainy non-dairy milks are over—the plant-based space has evolved significantly to feature an unending availability of tasty and nutritious food and drinks. It’s now even more accessible for consumers to add plant-based products to their diet,” says Zeilstra. “Although plant-based or flexitarian consumers might have different dietary preferences, that doesn’t mean they’re seeking different benefits compared to other consumers. Flexitarian consumers are discerning—they want the same standards when it comes to taste, texture, and nutritional value. When flexitarian consumers have both animal and plant-based options to choose from, they’re going to pick the one that tastes the best. However, creating a palatable taste and texture in plant-based solutions has not always been easy to achieve.”

Problems with taste and texture have caused sales of some alternative meat products to falter, cautions Dockery. “In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic when more people were eating at home, there was a sharp rise in sales of plant-based meats. However, that trend did not continue, and sales dropped substantially after 2021. Part of the problem, at least in the plant-based meats category, was taste. The products didn’t taste like meat. Most consumers are interested in taste, especially when the food is compared to its animal-sourced counterpart.” 

Dockery notes that alt-meats also often contained a long list of ingredients that were reminiscent of highly processed foods, so these products did not necessarily appear healthier. “According to the food and beverage intelligence company, Spoonshot, in their 2022 innovations report, in 2021, consumer interest in clean labels grew by 86%, just within the meat alternatives space.”

If customers have had bad experiences with earlier versions of plant-based substitutes, consider offering in-store taste tests, Dockery advises. “Product samples are often an excellent way to help consumers overcome their resistance to plant-based substitutes for their favorite animal-sourced products, such as meats or ice cream.” 

Cost parity with animal-based products is another factor to consider in attracting repeat customers, notes Jaime Athos, CEO of Tofurky and Moocho. “Retailers should also be looking for products that are affordable beyond trial periods, to appeal to consumers who wish to make repeat purchases but compare plant-based prices against animal-based products.” 

4 more trends to watch in plant-based foods

Protein-rich indulgence: “Consumers look for plant-based products that provide adequate protein content and a wide range of essential nutrients,’ says Guillen. “There is a growing awareness that plant-based diets can be nutritionally balanced and provide sufficient protein when incorporating various sources like legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and plant-based protein blends.” 

Consumers also seek more indulgent options that are fortified with plant protein for a convenient nutrition boost, adds Zeilstra, noting that FrieslandCampina’s line is ideal for fortifying foods and beverages with a healthy plant protein boost. “For example, brands should look to create novel products that combine exciting convenience with quality nutrition, such as high-protein coffees, ice creams or even cookies.” 

Allergy-friendly goods: The prevalence of food allergies and intolerances has led to an increased demand for plant-based goods that cater to specific dietary needs, says Guillen. 

Freezer favorites: “Plant-based pizza and ice cream are showing up as major trends this year, so be sure to add some new options to the frozen section,” says Davis. 

Comfort food to-go: “We are also seeing major advances in plant-based in food service, so if your store has a hot food station this could be a great time to try out some new recipes, label them as ‘fully plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ and see what resonates with your customers,” adds Davis. “Comfort food favorites like vegan mac and cheese, lasagna and mashed potatoes are a few staples that can easily be amended to feature plant-based ingredients and cater to a plant-based diner.” 

Success Secrets to Selling Plant-Based Supps 

“Plant-based concepts have a long history in the global consumer health marketplace, primarily through herbal and traditional dietary supplements,” says Guillen. She notes that science is confirming why so many plant-based healing remedies our ancestors used to rely on still work today. “Plant-based products are preferred over synthetic alternatives. Why? Because nature is the richest source of bioactive compounds and because the latest findings in science have provided better identification methods and contrasted evidence for the use of botanicals as healing ingredients in all the botanical traditions. But it’s also about eco-consciousness, using nature in the right way, without disturbing its balance.” 

Active nutrition is a sector that is seeing a surge in demand for plant-based, especially in protein supplements and performance-based fitness supplements, notes Davis. “The rise of world-class professional athletes who are outspoken about their plant-based diet for performance is inspiring health-conscious people of all ages to shift their way of thinking around nutrition.”  

Stocking a wide range of plant-based protein powders that can compete with animal based options can be one way to meet demand, says Zeilstra. “In the active nutrition market, consumers want the same protein content and quality they would get from traditional animal-based sources. This means highly bioavailable protein with a balanced profile of essential amino acids to support muscle recovery, energy and overall performance. At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we know protein which is why our Plantaris ingredients contain 25g of high-quality protein—including 2g leucine—per portion and have a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score of 1 making it comparable to whey protein.” 

Unibar also offers a clean, pure pea protein extract branded as UniP3 with excellent texture, taste, and solubility, adds Mehta. “Our proprietary clean water-based extraction process keeps the protein molecule intact without denaturation and without using solvents, hydrolyzation, or enzymes, making it an excellent vegan protein choice.” 

On the energy and performance side of the active nutrition market, there’s also plant-based offerings that can be good substitutes for animal-derived options like BCAAs, says Mehta, noting that one such option is capsaicin extract from chili peppers, branded as CapZfuel. “This clinically tested ingredient has been shown to provide optimal thermogenic support for enhanced energy, reduced fatigue, and improved performance and endurance.” 

Of course, it’s not just active nutrition consumers who are seeking plant-based supplement support. When looking for new plant-based supplement offerings, condition-specific products are key,” says Rob Brewster, President, Ingredients by Nature. He advises having a condition-specific, plant-based section to see if this helps promote awareness and sales of the products. 

5 Plant-Based Supplements Categories to Watch

Blood sugar management: “Blood sugar management supplements are becoming increasingly popular due to the prevalence of prediabetes—nearly 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes— and for their weight management benefits,” notes Brewster. One helping hand: the citrus-derived extract Eriomin. He notes that two published human clinical studies have shown that Eriomin can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, support   normal insulin response, and naturally increase glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). 

Heart helper: Customers who have a family history of heart disease may want to consider supplementing with Sytrinol, a patented blend of citrus extract, says Brewster. “In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Sytrinol showed a 27% reduction in cholesterol levels and supported healthy LDL: HDL ratios and triglyceride levels in as little as four weeks. Offering clinically validated products with strong certifications will continue to drive consumer demand in the space.” 

Inflammation soother: Omega-3 fatty acids are also well-known to help dial down cellular inflammation and deliver numerous health benefits. “However, omega-3s are typically sourced from fish, which has put tremendous pressure on sustainability of the marine environment,” says Dockery. “Fortunately, plant-derived sources from algae and genetically modified canola are now available for two of the omega-3s, DHA and EPA, which provides a plant-based option for these important nutrients. And there are also some excellent plant-based alternatives, such as Ahiflower seed oil, which provides a balanced source for both beneficial omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids.” 

Nutri-beauty: Nutraceuticals that promote beauty from the inside-out are also in high demand, and plant-based options are growing. “For example, one of the biggest natural ingredients within the food and cosmetic industries is collagen. Collagen is an animal-sourced ingredient,” notes Dockery. “However, collagen is also found in ingredients such as eggshell membrane, a simple natural ingredient that is also sustainably sourced. Eggshell membrane is suitable for ovo-vegetarians and flexitarians and would be a very good option for many consumers. There are also plant-based products that provide the building blocks for the body’s own production of collagen.” 

Another plant-based nutraceutical option is red pepper extract, branded as Bellaneo, adds Mehta. “Bellaneo has been clinically shown to aid in dark spots, clearer skin, brighter complexion, reduced fine lines, improved skin elasticity and hydration.” 

French maritime extract, branded as Pycnogenol, can also deliver some impressive plant-powered beauty benefits. A 2012 study examined 20 healthy women, aged 55–68 years in which Pycnogenol increased hyaluronic acid production in skin by increasing hyaluronic acid synthase by 44%, reduced skin fatigue by 30% and increased skin elasticity by 25%. What’s more, a new study, conducted with menopausal women, found oral intake of Pycnogenol to significantly increase hair density, decrease transepidermal water loss in scalp skin and optimize resting flux of the scalp. Hair density increased from the baseline of 225.8 hairs/cm2 to 293.6 hairs/cm2 after two months of supplementation with Pycnogenol, a statistically significant increase of 30%.

Vision support: Customers who want to support their eye health can look to carotenoids like lutein, found in the branded ingredients CapsiClear and UniGold, says Mehta. “CapsiClear is designed for those who want a comprehensive plant-based product to improve visual performance in everyday life, maintain optimum intraocular pressure, protect eye nerves, and aid in dry eye.”

Banking on the Plant-Based Beauty Boom

Plant-based skincare is another area poised for major growth. A recent study from the marketing firm Fact.MR projects that the global market with grow from $789 million in 2023 to $1.62 billion by 2033—a CAGR of 7.5%

To meet surging demand for plant-based beauty offerings, retailers may also want to consider stocking plant-based skin and hair care product lines, such as Acure and Pacifica, which uses all natural ingredients and offer cruelty-free certifications. 

“Beauty products not tested on animals is also an important buyer concern,” notes Nair. Products that come in recyclable or reusable packaging also hold wide to appeal to those looking for more sustainable options. “Consumers associate plant-based with healthy, natural, and ultimately, safe. So, their thinking is that the product is better for them than something created from artificial or manufactured ingredients or from an animal source.” Nair notes the Sempera Organics offers a wide range of mushroom ingredients that deliver both anti-aging and moisturizing benefits for use in serums and other cosmetic applications. 

For a deeper dive into HABA trends, with more on plant-based offerings, read expanded coverage on innovation and market insights. WF