In Demand: The Growth of Plant-Based Products from Refrigerated and Frozen

For years, when you talked about what was hot at grocery, the plant-based food category was almost always at the top of the list. With good reason too – in 2019, their retail market value reached $5.5 billion.

But in the past two years, the market has exploded – growing almost 2.5x faster than total food sales from 2018 to 2020.

Today, it’s grown to a $7 Billon market with no slowdown in sight. The category grew 27% in dollar sales in the last year alone – outpacing dollar sales growth of overall foods by double digits. And the demand is only getting larger – six out of 10 households making a plant-based food purchase in 2020.

Plant-based frozen and refrigerated foods make up a key portion of this growth, primarily due to new products. Let’s take a look at what’s leading the way.

Plant-Based Milk Is King

Out of all the plant-based product categories, plant-based milk is the most developed. It represents 35% of the total plant-based food market – reaching $2.5 billion in dollar sales in 2020. And it’s still growing – up 20% in dollar sales in the last year.

These products are commonly shelved right next to dairy milk. The exponential growth of oat-based products has claimed even more of that shelf space. With 39% household penetration, this will only continue to expand in the future.

Plant-Based Meats Aren’t Far Behind

Plant-based meats are rapidly growing, even as the category matures. Dollar sales grew 45% in the past year and 72% over the past two years.

While plant-based meats launched in the frozen section (and are still generating double-digit sales growth), it’s refrigerated plant-based meats that are driving the category.

Thanks to new product innovation and merchandising, they’re breaking out of their specialty vegan or natural foods cases to sit alongside their meat-based counterparts. These strategies are gaining an increasingly larger share of the category.

Emerging Plant-Based Categories Offer Prime Areas For Growth

Some smaller plant-based dairy products are in the best positions to become substantial players in the market. Some are already growing like crazy.

Piggybacking on the plant-based milk growth, plant-based creamer grew at more than three times the rate of dairy-based creamer. It clearly benefited from sharing the same shelf space. 

And, surprisingly, plant-based cheese also grew at three times the rate of dairy-based cheese. These products are starting to work their way out of the vegan/natural section, as exhibited by this growth.

Another product with a huge opportunity to gain market share is plant-based yogurt. It represented $343 million in dollar sales in 2020, but outperformed its milk-based counterparts by growing at more than 30 times their rate.

Plant-based eggs, while tiny, present the biggest opportunity for growth. Dollar sales grew 168% last year and a whopping 706% over the past two years. They outpaced animal-based eggs by 117x their dollar sales.

In Summary

Plant-based products are a major player in the refrigerated and frozen sections, and they’re only getting bigger. Demand is fueling their exponential growth with no slowdown in sight.

Established products like plant-based milk and meat are leading this substantial category and continuing to grow – making headway into the dairy and meat-based sections of the store.

Products like plant-based creamer, cheese, yogurt and eggs offer a substantial opportunity to gain market share in the coming years.

With these growth numbers and consumer demand, we don’t see growth of plant-based products slowing anytime soon.

SOURCE: All data is from the Good Food Institute report based on SPINS retail sales data released April 6, 2021, found here: