Between meat and milk, Italy is the third European market for sales of vegetable products

May 18 2023, 14:21 | by Michela Becchi
Italians are crazy about vegetable milk, especially soy milk. But the entire sector of plant-based products is growing, for a total of 168.4 million euros in sales in 2022.

Vegetable meat is all the hype in Italy

A total value of 5.7 billion euros, up by 22% compared to 2020: the sales of vegetable foods in Europe provided by NielsenIQ are positive, with a good growth in Italy by 9% in 2022. After all, it's not surprising if the attention to vegetable nutrition is always higher: initiatives such as Veganuary – the project to avoid animal derivatives for the whole month of January – and new vegetable cookbooks are on the docket, as well as the number of influencers who have chosen to follow a vegan lifestyle and who share tips and recipes with their followers to change habits. Italy continues to welcome this trend, with ad hoc restaurants and shops (the case of Rome is famous, one of the most vegan friendly cities), as well as an offer of products designed to compensate for meat, totalling 168.4 million euros in sales only in 2022.

Sales of vegetable products in Italy

The data relating to 13 European countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – was provided by the Good Food Institute Europe, a non-governmental organisation committed to building an ethical and sustainable food system. Demand is very strong and Italy represents the third largest market in Europe in terms of retail sales of vegetable products, with constantly growing numbers. The most popular specialty? Vegetable milk (310.4 million euros in sales), a world in full swing that has gained ever more space on grocery store shelves, as well as behind coffee bar counters, a topic that deserves a separate reflection on which we will return to focus. The results of ready meals, meat, milk, yoghurt and vegan desserts were also excellent, all growing with double-digit numbers last year. In terms of average per capita expenditure, however, Italy gains only the seventh position in the European ranking of plant-based purchases.

Vegetable meat, milk and cheese

The data on vegetable meat is curious: in 2022 it held a 10% market share, with burgers, sausages and nuggets in the lead representing almost total sales, followed by cured meats. At the same time, the price also increased: the average per unit of a plant-based meal grew by 3% in 2022, a less evident detail in the category of vegetable milk, which has not been affected much by inflation, while the prices of conventional milk increased by 13%. The workhorse among vegan drinks is soy milk, leader in the category with 31% of the sales value, followed by oat milk (23%) and almond milk (19%). The success of vegetable cheese was also good, increasing by 11% between 2020 and 2022, probably also thanks to the price increase of only 1%. Numbers that demonstrate the consumer's attention to a different diet, but above all a wider and more valid offer in the distribution channels. A development that must, however, be supported by continuous investments, "In the innovation of products that meet consumer expectations in key factors such as taste, price and convenience," commented Carlotte Lucas of the Good Food Institute Europe.


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