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The Vegan Renaissance

May 17, 2021

Last year, in the onset of a looming pandemic, small grocers and supermarkets alike suffered shortages of dozens of items. Ranging anywhere from toilet paper to computer parts, sudden scarcity in the wake of the coronavirus left many consumers scrambling to hoard what they could or find adequate substitutes. Fortunately, this has led to what some are referring to as a “vegan renaissance”. With meat industries struggling to satisfy demand, a resurging interest in plant-based products has business booming for companies providing alternatives to animal protein.

Why We’ve Been Short on Meat

In June of last year, the CDC released their guidelines for COVID-19 infection prevention for meat and poultry processing facilities. Since its issuance, processing plants have been struggling to maintain production volume while also adhering to guidelines. This is due to early-stage meat processing being largely non-automated, meaning staff are often closely involved with the meat. That, along with the “assembly line” nature of these plants means a higher production volume is directly tied to the number of workers, which has fallen since the start of last year.

While this isn’t surprising, it does spell particularly unfavorable results for big meat industries. Despite demand being as high as it’s ever been, production is bottlenecked— so where does that leave everyday shoppers?

A Boomer Year for Plant-Based Food

For many, the answer was found in plant-based meat! According to research done by The Good Food Institute, the market for plant-based food has grown 27% from the previous year. That’s almost double the amount of growth seen in total food sales. The contrast becomes even starker when examining each category individually. Plant-based meat saw the greatest increase proportionate to total dollar amount, with sales growing 45% from last year, followed closely by plant-based cheese at 42%.

Hold on: there’s no cheese shortage, so why did plant-derived cheese triple the percentage growth of overall food sales? Simply put, vegan retailers are upping their game. We here at NU Food can’t take all the credit (but seriously, if you haven’t, try our Queso)

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Conscientious Eating, Delicious Eats

It wasn’t all that long ago that a search for good, vegan-friendly food close to home often yielded few results. The offerings found at supermarkets were scarce and specialty stores were rare. The same could be said about fast-food restaurants. Today, it couldn’t be further from the truth! Companies like Impossible Foods have shown great market penetration over the past few years, expanding into Walmarts and Burger Kings nationwide with their Impossible Burger. Taco Bell, another fast-food giant, announced just last month that it’s currently testing a new “Cravetarian” taco, made with plant-based meat. NU Food’s own products can be found in nearly a dozen different stores spanning the country!

Surely this can’t all be because of the meat shortages though, right? It’s not as if fast-food restaurants have stopped serving their regular fare. Well, you’d be partly right. The truth is, research and development of meat analogues has been ongoing for years; recent exposure has just turbo charged the process. People are seeing what we can do with fruits and vegetables, and it’s starting to turn heads. 

Let’s not have industry leaders be in the spotlight for too long, though. As true champions of sustainable, cruelty-free practices, small businesses around the country have been the real trailblazers when it comes to plant-based food. NU Food is proud to count itself among those who strive for building a better planet, one snack at a time. Whether it’s crunchy popcorn or creamy queso, we’re committed to making exceptional snacks that are healthy, delicious, and good for the planet!