Chicago, IL—The NPD Group (NPD) reported in a press release that case shipments of plant-based protein from foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased by 20% in the year ending November 2018 when compared to the year before that, with all Census regions showing double-digit growth.

The West Census region showed the most plant-based case shipment growth, followed closely by the South Census region, according to the press release.

About a quarter of Americans say they eat and drink plant-based foods and beverages as well as animal protein on a regular basis, according to NPD, which linked the growing trend to public perception that plant-based products are healthier, as well as to concerns about animal welfare.

Burgers represent the largest plant-based foodservice category, according to NPD, with year-over-year double-digit growth in pounds shipped to foodservice operators. Smaller, more affluent households are the top buyers of plant-based burgers, although the burgers are popular across demographics.

David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor, said in the release, “It’s possible that protein overall is evolving into a category, whether animal meat, beans, nuts, soy, wild game or other proteins, in forms ranging from beverage to center-of-plate.”