Sales of plant-based foods spiked during the pandemic, and meat sales declined for the first time in six years, as more consumers are turning to plant-based foods amid the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new report from the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA). The new data released today by PBFA and SPINS data and analytics provider shows that sales of plant-based foods outpaced total food sales during the weeks leading up to April 19th.

The report looked at the "panic food buying period" in March and the time frame directly after it. Consumers saw the price of meat rise, experienced shortages in the supply chain, and saw production plants closing down due to clusters of COVID-19 cases among meatpacking workers. More consumers turned to plant-based alternatives, as the pandemic appeared to have a major impact on consumer behavior.

“This new data shows that consumers are turning to plant-based food options now more than ever,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at the Plant Based Foods Association. “Even after the highest panic-buying period, plant-based foods growth remains strong, proving that this industry has staying power,” she added.

PBFA released data to show the comparison of plant-based food in the fast-growing categories: Meatless meats, non-dairy cheese, as well as tofu and tempeh and found that while total plant-based foods sales grew faster than total retail food sales. In the four weeks following peak panic buying period, total plant-based food sales grew 27%,  which was 35% faster than total retail food sales.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a continued shift in consumer purchasing toward natural and organic products that enhance health and immunity,” said Tony Olson, owner and CEO of SPINS the wellbeing marketing company. “Our data shows, the plant-based meat boom of last year continues and as reports of animal-based meat shortages increase, we can expect plant-based meat to gain even more traction.”

Retail plant-based food sales experienced a major spike in mid-March during peak panic buying, but so too did traditional foods. But plant-based food sales shot up more sharply: Plant-based foods were up 90% over the same period last year.

Plant-based meat sales were up 148% over last year during the same time period, PBFA reports and continued to grow at a rate of 61%, or nearly twice as fast as animal-based meat during the same weeks. Plant-based meat sales continue to grow, while sales of animal-based meat showed a decline during the weeks following the panic buying period.

Plant-based cheese sales grew at 95% over last year during the same period, and growth continued at 54% during the four weeks post-panic buying period.

Tofu and tempeh sales are up as well, increasing 88% over last year during the same period, and they remained up 35% in the four weeks post-panic buying.

“These strong numbers prove that the plant-based industry is here to stay and will only continue to grow," said Michele Simon, Executive Director of the Plant-Based Foods Association.

The PBFA analyzed the retail sales of total plant-based foods and several fast-growing categories: plant-based meats (including how they compare to animal meats), plant-based cheese, and tofu and tempeh, over a 16-week period ending April 19, 2020.