As more innovations and products become available and accessible, consumer interest in plant-based foods and beverages continues to broaden. According to The NPD Group, about 25 million consumers eat plant-based beverages and foods occasionally or regularly, consuming these foods as part of a meal or as an ingredient, and about one in five consumers say that they want more plant-based foods in their diet.

Consumers are eating more plant-based meat, poultry and seafood analogues from foodservice establishments because these foods are prepared in the same way animal protein menu items are, which means the consumer isn’t sacrificing taste for what they believe to be a healthier option.

In foodservice, plant-based foods represent less than 1 percent of all foods shipped through broadline foodservice distribution to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, with many categories growing. Additionally, grain alternative pizza crusts, like cauliflower crust, grew broadline foodservice pound sales by 35 percent in 2022 compared to a year ago.

“Chefs and foodservice operators see the plant-based protein category as a versatile option to serve a greater diversity of guests,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Plant-based provides the options to create center-of-plate recipes that delight guests and bring them back for more.”

The NPD Group forecasts dairy and meat alternatives to grow through 2024, driven almost entirely by Millennials and Gen Zs, who choose these products because of their interest in sustainability, animal welfare, and better health.

“Plant-based beverages and foods are growing and gaining loyalty,” says Seifer. “These products still represent a small share in the categories in which they compete but give consumers and foodservice operators more options to consider.”