Growing appetite for vegan dairy, meat products propel Northern California producers


Finding vegetarian and vegan food in a grocery store is no longer like a scavenger hunt. This is good news for its producers, but the traditional meat and dairy industries are far from happy.

Sales and new products are on the rise, industry experts say as people want alternatives to animal products for health and environmental reasons and the industry offers a wider variety of choices. meatless, with flavors and textures often mimicking animal products. And, in many cases, product placement is done right next to animal products.

“I think it’s important to present plant-based options to an audience that may not be looking for them,” said Kalie Marder, co-owner of Renegade Foods, which has production facilities in Sonoma County. . “One way to standardize vegan food is to put it in the grocery store where you will find its animal counterpart. Consumers tend to be offered a meatless option that always meets their expectations. “

However, grocery stores having non-dairy products in the case of dairy products is not the only economic problem.

Western United Dairies CEO Anja Raudabaugh said any lowering of fat standards in butter, for example, threatens to weaken the conventional price, “or at least it has the potential to do so.”

“Take it to its logical conclusion. If the products can fill a storage space that claims to be butter, you not only lose storage space, but you also lose value at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (which sets the price of butter), ”Raudabaugh said. .

The lobbying organization and think tank represent nearly two-thirds of California dairy farms.

California’s dairy industry, which employs 286,000 people, has lost 2% of its market share in the past eight years.

Meanwhile, in 2020, plant-based yogurt sales increased 20%, nearly seven times the rate of conventional yogurt; plant-based cheeses increased by 42%, almost twice as much as conventional cheeses; and plant-based eggs increased 168%, nearly 10 times the rate of conventional eggs, according to the Plant Based Foods Association. The category of plant-derived eggs has increased by more than 700% from 2018, which is 100 times the rate of conventional eggs.

“Our most recent data that covered the 2020 grocery year shows that sales of plant-based foods have grown another 27%. This has been the case year over year for the past six or seven years with huge double-digit growth, ”said Michael Robbins, who manages the association’s policy. “It surpasses all other areas of the grocery store.

North Bay offers alternatives

Amy’s Kitchen in Petaluma is a powerhouse in the vegetarian / vegan world, in business since 1988.

“We could never have predicted that one day vegetarians and vegans would become mainstream and on the way to outperform animal protein alternatives one day,” Andy Berliner, co-founder and CEO of Amy, told The Business Journal. “Consumers are better informed about food choices and the impact of food on their health and that of our planet. They see the data that a plant-based diet can improve personal health and that of the planet. Now our biggest challenge is to keep up with the demand.

He said demand for Amy’s products “has jumped 100% in 2020”. Berliner attributes this to people who stock up during the pandemic and want to eat healthier. Revenue in 2020 was around $ 600 million.

“We are expecting a banner year in 2022 due to the investments we have made in more production facilities – new sites in San Jose and Goshen (in Tulare County) – and people,” Berliner said .

The company has 136 products on the market and in a typical year launches six to 12 new items.

“Amy’s is unique in that everything is made from whole, organic ingredients and cooked in real kitchens just like you would at home with a lot of love,” Berliner said.

Innovation, like most industries, is the key to success. Ten-year-old Wildbrine and WildCreamery in Santa Rosa just released an oat butter and will soon have a quinoa-based sour cream.

“We have grown for herbal items that are derived from the same byproducts by fermenting plants,” said co-owner Chris Glab. The products are usually found in grocery stores mixed with similar non-plant items.

Glab said in the United States in the 12 months ending January 24, 2021, compared to the previous 12 months:

• Plant-based cream cheese grew 2.3 times faster than traditional dairy cream cheese (45.1% vs. 19.7%)

• Plant-based sour cream grew 3.8 times faster than traditional dairy sour cream (53.8% vs. 14.8%)

• Vegetable butter grew 6.6 times faster than traditional dairy butter (133.3% vs. 20.3%).

While Renegade Foods has only been bringing plant-based products to market since 2020, research and design took a decade. The company is headquartered in Berkeley and production takes place in Petaluma.

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