Plant-based eating is on the rise. According to data released in March 2022 by the Plant Based Foods Association, The Good Food Institute, and SPINS, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 6.2% in 2021, elevating domestic total plant-based market value to an all-time high of $7.4 billion (see “U.S. plant-based food retail sales hit $7.4 billion, outpacing total retail sales, despite supply chain interruptions and pandemic restrictions creating widespread volatility in the food industry”). Plant-based retail sales have grown three times faster than total food retail sales.

Plant-based alternatives to meat form a primary opportunity in the snack and bakery market, including bringing more options to categories like frozen pizza. But a wider range of snack and bakery products also stand to gain ground by offering vegetarian and vegan options for consumers focusing on a plant-based diet. In order to learn more about market potential in plant-based eating, we reached out to Sarah Corwin, Ph.D., LDN, senior principal scientist of plant-based and applications development, Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition North America, Inc., Itasca, IL.


Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: Why is the vegan snack and bakery market growing?

Sarah Corwin
Sarah Corwin:New technologies and an industry focus on improving plant-based offerings has allowed for better taste and texture in plant-based snack and bakery products. Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition conducted research on plant-based consumer perception in 2021. According to our research, consumers choose plant-based alternatives for health and environmental reasons primarily, but tend not to repurchase because these products really haven’t been that good until very recently.

A great example is plant-based sausage toppings on pizza. For many years, this was a very niche product type only consumed frequently by a very small number of people willing to tolerate a subpar product. Now Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s both have plant-based offerings, something unheard of only a few years ago. This is because the large plant-based companies have really focused carefully on getting taste and texture right, so much so that typical meat eaters can’t even tell the difference.


DJP: What are some categories where snack and bakery producers can expand into vegan offerings?

SC: We are seeing growth in vegan savory and low-carbohydrate bread products. Mainstream appeal in these categories is a primary driving force behind this expansion. There is also a rapid expansion in plant-based protein concentrate and isolate ingredients in bakery products, and especially high demand for functional proteins from CPG companies. Lastly, sales of dessert and cake mixes have projected future annual growth rates higher than pre-COVID rates, an opportunity for CPG companies to expand into better-for-you indulgences (Innova Market Insights, 2021).


DJP: What are the challenges related to developing these types of products?

SC: Creating the correct texture and using masking ingredients and flavor enhancers for these plant proteins will be integral to developing delicious products that deliver on taste and nutrition. Survey research from Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition has even shown that less-frequent traditional meat substitute consumers cite texture as a challenge in these foods, and the majority of plant-based meat alternative and traditional meat substitute consumers say they would be comfortable with these products having more ingredients if they made these products taste better.


For more insights into the plant-based market, review recent vegan content on