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Process Manufacturing

Plant-based food manufacturing growth benefits

The plant-based food market has become a major force in the food and beverage industry and companies are working to catch up with the momentum.

By Jason Robertson January 20, 2020
Courtesy: CRB

Plant-based is all the rage right now. From plant-based ice cream, dips and snacks, to meat, chicken, pet food and even packaging materials, the food and beverage industry is hopping on the plant-based food manufacturing train. What was once dubbed a fad has become a $4.5 billion market, growing at a rate of five times total food sales, according to Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), San Francisco. Research produced by Global Market Insights, Inc., outlines how the plant-based ingredients category will cross the $13 trillion mark by 2025. A Euromonitor projection shows worldwide sales of meat substitutes will grow 22% by 2023 and, a study conducted by Innova Market Insights reveals plant-based nutrition is showing no signs of slowing down.

MycoTechnology takes on the challenges faced by the plant-based protein industry using mushroom fermentation. Courtesy: CRB

MycoTechnology takes on the challenges faced by the plant-based protein industry using mushroom fermentation. Courtesy: CRB

All stats aside, how can the industry decipher between the buzzword and the way of life?

Consumer demand

Consumers love to latch on to buzzwords and run with them. Think back to the beginning of the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers and even gluten-free.

But, plant-based isn’t just for vegans anymore. It’s become a lifestyle vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike can maintain, regardless of their health status.

According to HealthFocus data, 17% of U.S. consumers aged 15 to 70 claim to eat a predominately plant-based diet; while 60% are cutting back on meat-based products. Of those reducing their intake of animal-based proteins, 55% say the change is permanent, and 22% hope it is.

Industry demand

Plant-based also continues to invade the foodservice industry, with processors like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat partnering with nationwide fast food chains such as Burger King, White Castle and KFC to add their plant-based burgers to the menu.

PCMA Benchmark report shows more and more restaurants “will have a dedicated menu for plant-based food items,” in 2020.

What’s more is, case shipments of plant-based protein from broadline foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased by 20% in 2018 compared to 2017, with all census regions showing double-digit growth, according to The NPD Group, Chicago.

This means that while plant-based may be a hot buzzword online it’s becoming more of a way of life in the store and consumers’ homes.

The eco-friendly aspect of plant-based food manufacturing

A report from Nielsen shows 81% of global consumers believe it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment.

This interest in the environment is another reason why plant-based diets are gaining popularity. It’s not just good for consumers’ health; it’s also good for the plant’s health, according to this case study by UCLA Sustainability.

Research by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems shows a plant-based burger generates 90% less greenhouse gases, 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on land than a quarter pound of American beef.

Additionally, Good Food Institute (GFI) produced a new plant-based meat fact sheet that standardizes and compares the available life-cycle assessments for plant-based meat products, analyzing greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and aquatic nutrient pollution.

Investment in plant-based food manufacturing

Venture capitalists and other investors also are hopping on the plant-based food manufacturing train. Plant-based food companies have raised more than $16 billion in the last decade, with record gains of $13 billion in 2017 and 2018 alone, according to GFI’s State of the Industry report.

The NC Food Innovation Lab will accelerate plant-based food research, ideation, development and commercialization. Courtesy: CRB

The NC Food Innovation Lab will accelerate plant-based food research, ideation, development and commercialization. Courtesy: CRB

Engineering for plant-based food manufacturing

So, what does this growth mean for the design-build industry? The more product innovation, the more need for new and/or expanding plant-based food manufacturing facilities.

An annual capital spending survey forecasts a 16.6% boost in new design-build projects, as food and beverage producers pump up the size of their buildings to accommodate for more lines and additional SKUs. Over the last 12 months, SalesLeads, Inc. tracked 91 expansion and new construction projects at or involving plant-based food manufacturers.

The plant-based food manufacturing train is moving full speed ahead, with no end in sight.

This article originally appeared on CRB’s websiteCRB is a CFE Media content partner.


Jason Robertson
Author Bio: Jason Robertson, food and beverage market director, CRB