While treats like chips, popcorn, and ice cream (and for some reason, oat milk) topped grocery purchases during the first few weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns, more Americans continue to turn to a different comfort food: plant-based meat alternatives.
Grocery store sales of products like Beyond Meat and Tofurky were up 264 percent during a nine-week period ending on May 2nd, according to Nielsen (via The Wall Street Journal). Overall, retail sales plunged 16.4 percent from March to April. The popularity of faux meat exploded starting in March, with sales of fresh meat alternatives surging 206 percent the first week of March and rising 279 percent the week ending on March 14th, according to Nielsen.
Plant-based meat products still lag behind their animal-based counterparts in terms of market size. The 264 percent uptick of faux meat sales represented an increase of $25.7 million, while fresh meat sales — up only 45 percent during the same period — saw a $3.8 billion total increase. That’s despite production of meat products declining 28 percent year over year, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
The US meat industry has been rocked by the pandemic, with major producers shutting down production and thousands of workers infected with the novel coronavirus in 19 states. At least 20 meat plant workers have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Friday, the CEO of JBS, the largest beef producer in the US, said the impact of the novel coronavirus will be felt across the meat industry for months.