Meat Alternatives, Ready-Made Cocktails Challenge Traditional Summer Fare

While burgers, hot dogs and traditional beverages and brands still rule, many consumers will be serving up plant-based meat alternatives, new drink variations, and private-label products as they kick off summer during Memorial Day weekend.

Sales of plant-based meat alternatives rose by 13.5% during the 12 months ended March 23, versus 2.6% growth for traditional meat overall during the same period, according to Nielsen U.S. xAOC data. (Within that, there’s some relatively good news for hot dogs — which had modest 1.9% growth, after three years of sales declines.)

Although still a small slice of the $270 billion U.S. meat market, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods that replace animal products rose 17%, to $3.7 billion, in the 52 weeks ended August 11, 2018, per data from Nielsen and The Good Food Institute. (The total plant-based products market is estimated at about $4 billion.) One leading plant-based brand that’s sold at retail, Beyond Meat, reported that its sales jumped from $16.2 million in 2016 to $87.9 million in 2018, reports MarketWatch.

The Boom In RTD Adult Drinks

Meanwhile, as beer sales continued to stagnate (up 0.1% during the 12-month period ended March 23), consumers’ growing demand for convenient and healthier beverage options have driven large percentage growth for newer choices including hard seltzer (up 193%); hard kombucha (247.3%); canned wine (77.5%); canned wine-based cocktails (42%); and canned spirits-based cocktails (41%), reports Nielsen.

Malt-based cocktails are showing the fastest growth (up 574%, to $4.7 million, in 2018). But in addition to showing 40%-plus growth last year, the more well-established spirit- and wine-based RTD cocktail segments are larger ($62 million and $83 million, respectively), Nielsen reported.

As for rosé, the Gen Y-driven revival phenomenon of recent years, growth continues, but is slowing (up 37.5% in the recent 52-week period, versus 63.4% in the year-ago period). Sparkling rosé sales rose 25.5%, versus 30.2% in the previous period.

The effects on the adult beverage sector of the emerging legal availability of CBD and cannabis are something of a wild card at present, but Nielsen reports that 44% of spirits drinkers, 41% of beer drinkers, and 35% of wine drinkers are “interested” in cannabis. Overall, 34% of consumers 21 and older indicate interest in consuming cannabis legally.

Private Label Growth Continues

As branded CPG makers are keenly aware, private label options continue to proliferate.

In total, private label product sales rose 3.8% in the 52 weeks ended April 27, while traditional branded product sales rose 1.9%.

Private label meat sales rose 5%, versus 2% for traditional brands.

And within alcoholic beverages, private label sales increased by 17%, versus 3.4% for brands — although the PL products generated a relatively modest $265.8 million, compared to $35 billion-plus for brands.

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