Europe Sees Surge In Plant-Based Food Sales

European sales of plant-based foods grew 21% between 2020 and 2022, reaching a record-breaking €5.8B.


According to The Good Food Institute Europe, despite difficult economic headwinds, consumers in 13 countries have shown an appetite for next-generation plant-based food.

By the numbers:

  • From 2020–2022, unit sales of plant-based milk grew 20%, now comprising 11% of the overall milk market.
  • Unit sales of plant-based meat products increased by 21%.
  • Plant-based cheese increased by 62%, while plant-based seafood (currently the smallest category) saw its unit sales rise by 343%.

Of note, during the same period, conventional meat and milk sales dropped by 8% and 9%, respectively, suggesting more consumers are replacing animal products entirely.

What it means: While conventional meat products were more affected by inflation than plant-based varieties, studies tying overconsumption of animal products to chronic inflammation and some cancers could be the greater influence.

Motivated by sustainability and personal health––a trend accelerated by the pandemic and the growing awareness around food as medicine––tastes of European consumers, particularly younger generations, are shifting.

But…Despite the sector’s meteoric growth in Europe, if the US market is any indication of the future landscape, then continued growth across categories isn’t guaranteed.

After years of prosperity, plant-based meat sales in the US are flatlining, with everything from premium pricing and market saturation to cultural stigma blamed for its downturn.

Last month, cultivated pork maker New Age Eats announced it was shuttering due to a lack of funds, while plant-based pioneer Eat Just cut 18% of staff in its Just Egg division in a bid for profitability.

Even Big Food is cutting its losses, with Nestlé sunsetting its Garden Gourmet and Wunda brands in Ireland and the UK, and Kellogg’s giving up on its Incogmeato vegan burger.

Future of food. To avoid falling into a similar trap, European companies and governments are investing in infrastructure, innovation, and consumer awareness.

  • In 2022, Spain’s Heura raised €20M and launched Good Rebel Tech, a foodtech firm exploring the biggest category challenges, including nutrition density and taste.
  • In January, investors poured over €10M into Project Eaden, a German foodtech company creating plant-based steak.
  • Earlier this year, the UK government invested £12M in a research centre to grow sustainable protein and cultivated meat.
  • A partnership between French cheese producer Bel Group and AI-powered startup Climax Foods will develop plant-based versions of products indistinguishable from their dairy counterparts.

Looking ahead: The number of plant-based and lab-grown animal product alternatives continues to multiply across the EU, Asia, and beyond. But, while the current market appears promising, regulatory hurdles and opposition—like Italy’s ban to defend food heritage—remain.

As the initial hype dies down, convincing consumers plant-based products aren’t just a novel alternative, rather a healthy and sustainable lifestyle upgrade, will be key to maintaining growth.

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