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The plant-based food sector is booming! With more people shifting away from meat toward more clean, plant-based protein alternatives, many new start-ups offering innovative products have jumped in to meet growing demand. In fact, the plant-based food sector is currently valued at $5 billion!

This move away from animal products is largely due to consumers’ rising concerns about animal welfare, personal health, and importantly, sustainability. And now we have even more proof that the future of food is plant-based: according to recent statistics by manufacturer Nellson, demand for plant-based product development has spiked by close to 140 percent. That’s right, 140 percent!

What’s more, according to HealthFocus data, 17 percent of U.S. consumers aged 15 to 70 claim to eat a predominantly plant-based diet, with 60 percent reporting a cut back on meat-based products. Of those who are reducing their animal-based protein intake, 55 percent say the change is permanent and 22 percent hope that it is. Wow!

We know the trend is largely driven by Millennials, who are more inclined than Baby Boomers to seek out food that is healthy, organic, and in line with their ethics, but the popularity of the plant-based industry is showing little sign of slowing down.

Plant-based milk has seen major growth in recent years and is set to reach $16.3 billion in 2018. As an increasing number of people turn to dairy-free options, there is more and more opportunity for companies to create innovative and delicious products that make it easier than ever to ditch dairy. Additionally, more people than ever are reducing their meat consumption and opting for plant-based options instead. Collectively, we spend around $600 million annually on meat alternatives.

While it has long been the case that people are leaving meat and dairy off their plates more frequently, seeing the incredible rise in plant-based foods as a market sector is a clear indication that consumer habits are changing for the better. As we approach a population of 9.8 billion by 2050, we are being forced to answer the question of how we’re going to feed the world without completely exhausting all our natural resources. The answer to this question is falling on the shoulders of companies that are developing more sustainable plant-based products that are not only better for animals, but much better for our own health.

With the rising demand for plant-based products and the amazing outpouring of new innovative foods that satiate our appetition without meat or dairy, there’s simply no denying that future of food is already here — and it’s plant-based.

For more information about trends in the plant-based food space, check out this recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias, featuring Michele Simon, Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association.

Image source: Curried Chickpea and Kale Veggie Burgers With Baked Sweet Potato Fries