The Plant Based Foods Association, a trade association representing 114 of the nation’s leading plant-based food companies, released new data showing robust sales in the plant-based foods industry with dollar sales growth of 20% over the last year and sales topping $3.3 billion.

“The plant-based foods industry has gone from being a relatively niche market to fully mainstream,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA). “Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are not just for vegetarians or vegans anymore; now even mainstream consumers are enjoying these delicious and innovative options in the market today,” she adds.

PBFA commissioned the custom dataset from Nielsen, the leading retail sales research company, which shows the total market for the plant-based food sector (as defined below) in Nielsen’s Expanded All Outlets Combined Channel is up 20% in dollar sales over the last year, as compared to an increase of 2% all foods sold in the same channel. (All food departments include refrigerated, deli, grocery, dairy, meat, produce, bakery, frozen foods.)

The data shows that “other” plant-based dairy alternatives, which excludes milks, are experiencing explosive growth, up 50%. Other plant-based dairy alternatives include plant-based cheeses, creamers, butter, yogurts and ice creams.

Additional data shows:

  • The plant-based milk category is up 9% (compared to 3% the previous year), and comprise about half the total dollar volume, at $1.6 billion.
  • Cow’s milk dollar sales are down 6%. Plant-based milk comprises 15% of total milk sales.
  • Plant-based meats growing at an exciting 24% (compared to 6% the previous year) topping $670 million in sales.
  • The growth in plant-based creamers has been particularly impressive, with a 131% increase, with $109 million in sales.
  • Plant-based cheeses are growing at 43%, at $124 million.
  • Plant-based yogurts are growing at 55%, at $162 million in sales.

“The new data confirms what we are hearing and seeing every day from our members: sales are up, investment is increasing, and new jobs are being created in the plant- based foods industry,” says Simon. “It is important that regulators and legislators treat our industry fairly and the playing field for plant-based foods is level and fair at the state and national levels.”

This is the second year the Plant Based Foods Association released Nielsen retail sales data. Last year, plant-based foods grew 8%. With an increased growth rate of 20%, it’s clear that the plant-based foods industry is a food industry leader that consumers, food service, and retailers are taking seriously.


The data represents plant-based foods that directly replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as meals that contain direct replacements for these animal products. Within each category, both branded products and private labeled items were included. The market was segmented into the following categories:

  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Meat alternatives
  • Milk alternatives

Other dairy alternatives:

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice Cream, novelty, and frozen desserts
  • Butter
  • Dips, dressings, and sour cream
  • Creamers


  • Egg substitutes and mayo
  • Meals

Butter alternatives were defined as vegan products marketed using the terms “butter,” “buttery spread,” or “vegan spread.” Margarines that are not specifically marketed to function as butter replacements were not included.

The Nielsen data scans all outlets, which include grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, and military stores, plus Whole Foods. This custom data set was defined by PBFA for plant-based foods for each category that represents a replacement for animal products. Nielsen provided data in several categories over a 52-week period ending June 16, 2018. The data represents foods that replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as meals that contain animal foods replacements.

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