Milk and meat alternatives lead plant-based growth: roundup

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Milk alternatives is one of the driving factors in plant-based growth in Europe
Milk alternatives is one of the driving factors in plant-based growth in Europe

Related tags plant-based vegan

Rapid growth of plant-based food in Europe, Beyond Meat's global McDonald's and Yum!Brands deals, opposition to restrictions on dairy-based terms for vegan packaging, and ready meal launches feature in this roundup of plant-based news.

Milk and meat alternatives have helped grow sales of plant-based foods in Europe by 49% in two years, according to new research from the Smart Protein Project. The data coincided with US-based Beyond Meat's announcement of a three-year global strategic agreement with McDonald’s Corporation​ to be its preferred supplier for the patty for a new plant-based burger currently being trialled. Through the deal Beyond Meat and McDonald’s will also explore co-developing other plant-based items – such as plant-based options for chicken, pork and egg – as part of McDonald’s broader McPlant platform. At the same time, Beyond Meat announced a similar partnership with Yum! Brands​ to co-create plant-based products for KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell over the next several years.

Produced in partnership with ProVeg International using Nielsen data, the Smart Protein Plant-based Food Sector report found category sales reached a total value of €3.6bn (£3.1bn) between 2018 to 2020.

In the UK, plant-based milk (107%) and plant-based cheese (165%) both showed triple-digit value-sales growth over the past two annual periods, with plant-based meat leading the market – worth €502m (£433m).

Commenting on the report, ProVeg senior consumer research scientist Kai-Brit Bechtold said: “Finally, we see the tremendous growth of plant-based food in Europe over the last few years reflected in numbers. This report clearly reveals the huge increase in sales of plant-based food and offers a green light to the food industry in terms of pursuing more plant-based options”

The report also found that oat milk was the leading plant-based product across Europe, with the highest growth rate in most countries. The biggest growth in the plant-based meat sector on the continent occurred in Germany (up 226%), while Belgium saw plant-based yogurt sales skyrocket (up 497%).

Validating demand

Bram Meijer, regional marketing director at meat alternatives firm Beyond Meat, added: “This report by Nielsen validates that demand for plant-based meat is on the rise and we aim to meet this growing demand by offering consumers the nutritional and environmental benefits of plant-based proteins through our products."

The report's comments on the huge uplift of plant-based products in Europe follow Tyson Foods Europe's declaration that the global food giant would expand its Raised & Rooted brand in Europe​.

In other plant-based news, the Vegan Society has renewed its criticism of plans to ban ‘dairy words’ on vegan milk, yoghurt and cheese.

Proposals by the EU would make it illegal for plant-based foods to be compared to dairy products in the future. If approved, words and phrases such as ‘creamy’ and ‘alternative to’ would be stripped from these foods.

The Vegan Society has joined a coalition of food bodies in signing an open letter to the EU calling for the ban to be dismissed and encouraging a shift towards more plant-based diets.

Besides severely limiting the way producers can promote plant-based foods, a ban would lead to costly redesigns to packaging too, it argued.

Restricting the vegan sector

Louise Davies, head of campaigns, policy and research at The Vegan Society, said: “Now is the time to be supporting the plant-based business sector, not restricting it. With scientific consensus confirming that plant-based diets are on the whole better for the environment, governments need to be encouraging consumption of plant-based foods, and supporting brands in this area.”

“These amendments do nothing to support consumer understanding, and instead are an arbitrary step to attempt to hold back the rise of the plant-based sector.”

This week, online retailer TheVeganKind launched its first own food brand Love Plant in collaboration with meat alternatives manufacturer This. Three products will be launched into the range: Thai Green Curry; Korma & Rice; and Arrabiata Pasta.

The ready meal range has been developed to appeal to both vegans and meat-eaters, boasting ‘hyper-realistic’ plant-based chicken in a bid to ‘show them how tasty plants are’.

‘Mass appeal’

TheVeganKind chief executive and co-founder Scott McCulloch said: “We wanted to release a range of classic meals which have universal, mass appeal, and we wanted meat eaters to enjoy them as much as vegans.”

Emerging trends in the meat-free market will come under the spotlight at the Future of Plant-Based Proteins: Roots of Further Growth virtual conference on 31 March.

The online event, which is sponsored by Atlantic Natural Foods, Radicle and Roquette, will feature key industry figures discussing significant trends, technical and operational issues in the plant-based food sector. Supporters are Cargill, Firmenich, Ingredion, Mane and Symrise.

The virtual conference, which will also include networking opportunities, runs from 9.30am to 3.15pm and the ticket price is £125 plus VAT.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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