The Latest Alt Protein Predictions


Predictions are like noses — everybody’s got one. But some predictions (and observed trends) carry more weight than others. In the world of plant-based and alternative proteins, it seems like every category is experiencing double-digit growth. Which categories really stand out and are likely to grow faster than the generally rising tide? Let’s take a look at what some of the experts think, based on some of the latest and most reliable data.  


In our in-depth report on plant-based buyers and brands, Cultivate Insights identified plant-based eggs as the category poised to experience the most growth. Twenty months later, the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute released data showing that the plant-based egg category grew by 168% in 2020, the fastest-growing category of those covered in their analysis. This is the predictive power of consumer research!

What else is trending, according to PBFA and GFI? Using retail scanner data through the end of 2020, they show that some of the biggest growth categories are plant-based spreads and dips, also including items like dairy-free sour cream and sauces. Plant-based cheese and butter also recently experience 36-42% growth, year over year. The GFI chart below shows the market value and annual growth for some of these niche plant-based categories. 

Other Plant-Based Dairy Category Dollar Sales and Dollar Sales Growth
GFI/PBFA, 2020

GFI chart - Other Plant-Based Dairy

Bonus predictions: GFI partnered with Metaculus on the “Alt-Protein Tournament,” which invites people to make predictions on a variety of questions related to plant-based and cell-based protein alternatives and related topics. As of this publication, only 5% think a major global meat producer will go bankrupt by 2023, while 30% say at least one cultivated meat product will be on sale in the US by 2023.

Moonshot Collaborative 

Boutique consumer research agency Moonshot Collaborative (a partner company to Cultivate Insights) recently gave a sneak peak of plant-based consumer interest in a variety of niche product categories. They asked their exclusive consumer panel of plant-based buyers what categories they would be interested in trying at least once. Leading the list are decadent foods like bacon, fried chicken, and steak (plus eggs, again). There was relatively less interest in plant-based alternatives to veal, lamb, and scallops. 

Plant-Based Consumer Interest in Product Categories
Moonshot Collaborative, 2021

Whole Foods Market

Few companies are better positioned than Whole Foods Market to identify the next big plant-based food trends. The major US natural foods chain recently released its predictions for 2021, which highlighted plant-based gourmet cheeses, vegan meat alternatives for summertime grills and barbecues, and plant-based foods for children. Plant-based (dairy-free) dips and spreads and vegan seafood alternatives round out the list as key growth categories. 

European Outlook

An in-depth report from the Smart Protein Project details the growth of different plant-based categories in major European countries. The data reflect the differences in plant-based adoption rates by region. For instance, in the United Kingdom the highest-growth categories are plant-based milk and cheese, while in Germany they are plant-based meat and cheese (and yogurt). A recent Euromonitor report found that plant-based claims are increasingly appealing to a broader consumer base than vegetarians and vegans. They noted two trends based on their research: “Vegan fish and seafood is (together with cheese) the next big category in the pipeline” and “vegan chocolate and sugar confectionery are set to gain ground.”

Predict Your Own Trend

Just as Cultivate Insights predicted the growth in plant-based eggs before it happened, we can help your company predict the next big trends. By using research to determine consumers’ willingness to try, buy, and continue buying products in a range of niches, we can help you figure out where to invest your product development efforts. In the fast-moving world of alternative proteins, being among the first to identify new trends can position you to lead those niches before the competition even hears about them. 

Contact us today to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.