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The Year Ahead: Of produce and plant-based diets

Numerous studies have identified plant-based eating—from full-on veganism to a casual reduction in meat consumption through plant-based substitutes—as gaining traction in 2020 and 2021.

With both health and sustainability concerns contributing to this trend, observers expect the growth to continue.

The plant-based foods market in the United States exceeded $7 billion in 2020, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association, up 27 percent over 2019. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. households (more than 71 million) purchased plant-based foods in 2020, up from 53 percent in 2019.

Jin Ju Wilder, director of marketing and business development at Vesta Foodservice BB #:125924 in Santa Fe Springs, CA, says her fastest-growing categories are alternative milks and proteins.

The question is, does the growth in plant-based foods such as meatless burgers or nut milks represent an alternative that threatens consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables? Or are the two complementary?

With the right messaging, the answer can be the latter. Coconut can be used as a stand-in for seafood in ceviche, jackfruit as a substitute for pork, and mushrooms for red meat.

In fact, jackfruit (mostly canned) and mushrooms are among the commodities facing scarcity—as rising demand meets labor shortages, transportation issues, tariffs, and other supply-side factors, Wilder reports.

“We know that fruits and vegetables are the plants no one is eating enough of,” says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation BB #:157162. “We need to put more emphasis on fruits and vegetables as at the forefront of the plant-led movement.”

This is an excerpt from the cover story of the January/February 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.