More than two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery patterns continue to evolve. Following two panic buying weeks, consumers are shifting to fewer but bigger trips and shopping at different times, buying different items and buying at different stores, according to a recent report from IRI and 210 Analytics.

The one constant throughout all this change has been the meat department’s powerhouse performance since the onset of coronavirus in the U.S. But how have plant-based meat alternatives fared over the past 11 weeks? 210 Analytics and IRI partnered to understand the effect for frozen and fresh meat alternatives in dollars and volume throughout the pandemic.

Dollar and Volume Sales

Meat alternative (fresh plus frozen) sales have seen tremendous gains throughout March, April and the first two weeks of May. Sales gains versus the same week in 2019 have been in the double-digits for 11 weeks running. Year-over-year sales gains peaked during the first of the two panic buying weeks with an increase of 157.8% versus the same week in 2019. Since, there have been small fluctuations, but sales gains have been around 70% ever since the last week of March. Volume sales have had a strong performance as well with gains peaking the second of the two panic weeks, at +144.3% versus the same week in 2019. Volume sales gains have trailed dollar gains since the onset of COVID-19 and the gap has widened in recent weeks. For the week ending May 10, the volume versus dollar gain gap stood at 13.2 percentage points — signaling inflationary pressure.

Meat and meat alternative sales growth patterns over the past two months look very similar, with gains in plant-based meat alternatives exceeding those of the meat department each week. However, to fully understand the story behind the percentages, it is crucially important to look at the size of the market.

Meat Versus Meat Alternative Sales Throughout the Pandemic

Despite robust sales gains each week, meat alternative dollar sales are a fraction of meat department sales. This means percentage gains are based on very different sales numbers and reflect very different absolute dollar gains.

Since the onset of the pandemic-related changes in grocery patterns, the meat department has seen an additional $5.0 billion in sales, versus an additional $100.3 million for plant-based meat alternatives.

Pandemic period (March 8-May 10) Dollar growth % Absolute dollar gains Volume growth % Absolute lbs gains
Meat department +45.2% $5.0 billion +27.8% 1.1 billion
Plant-based meat alternatives (fresh plus frozen +86.0% $100.3 million +58.9% 13.3 million

As a percentage of the total (meat department plus plant-based meat alternative sales), the share for plant-based alternatives stood at 1.50% during March 1. Because of the absolute gains in meat dollars, the market share for plant-based alternatives has since dropped to a low of 1.18% during the week of April 12 and stood at 1.27% the week ending May 10.

Click here to read more and for a copy of the full report.