Plant-based snack foods for vending and micro markets

April 28, 2022
Better-for-you options in single-serve packages are growing rapidly for vending and micro markets, offering on-the-go convenience.

Today, consumers are moving toward a healthier lifestyle overall, and this includes shifting to better-for-you products and a focus on individual wellness needs. No matter the reasons why consumers are choosing to eat less animal products, the plant-based food industry is booming – with millennials and Gen Z driving the market growth.

The plant-based food category

For consumers, choosing a plant-based diet means prioritizing plant foods, specifically fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats. Studies show that consumers are making plant-based foods the main part of their diet, but not necessarily exclusive.

For sources of protein, consumers are looking to tofu, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds and quinoa, for example. Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Consumers are also increasingly interested in the health benefits of several types of mushrooms, which are a good source of fiber and antioxidants, and fungi are even featured in ready-to-drink beverages, snacks and coffee. According to Allied Marketing Research, the global functional mushroom market is expected to reach $19.33 billion by 2030, and a rise in demand for organic reishi mushroom products and usage of mushrooms as a supplement to meat products present new opportunities in the coming years.

The plant-based diet is also fueling the rise of meat alternative products. Plant-based food companies are making burgers, faux chicken nuggets, sausages and hot dogs, to name a few, look and taste similar to the real thing.

What’s also clear today is that consumers are thirsty for knowledge on how products are made, what’s in them, how they will benefit their health and wellness, and how our choices in food products help or harm the environment. Armed with this information, consumers are now more willing to try new products and be adventurous. Cauliflower rice? Tofu oatmeal? Sure, they’ll give it a try.

Plant-based food market poised for growth

According to data published at Statista, the global plant-based food market is expected to reach $77.8 billion in 2025, and further growth is expected. The forecast projects that by 2030, the market will have more than doubled. For 2022, the model expects a market worth $44.2 billion.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, the plant-based foods market could make up to 7.7% of the global protein market by 2030, with a value of over $162 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2020. The report identifies growth expectations for the plant-based foods market through 2030, as global animal and dairy protein demand is poised to reach $1.2 trillion by then. If the alternative meat market follows a similar growth pattern to that of plant-based milk, BI projects the alternative meat market to increase from $4.2 billion to $74 billion in the next 10 years. According to the report, industry giants including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Oatly are driving the increase in plant-based food options, and more traditional and established companies, like Kellogg and Nestlé, are looking to increase their distribution of plant-based products.

For the global dairy alternatives market, it is expected to grow from $19.79 billion in 2020 to $47.95 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.7% during the forecast period 2021-2028, according to a report published by Fior Markets. Rice milk, almond milk and soy milk are among the most common dairy alternatives worldwide.

Who is driving the market?

According to the NPD Group food industry analysts, Gen Z and millennials are leading the way, who choose plant-based foods for better health, as well as their interest in sustainability and animal welfare. “About one in five adults say they want more plant-based foods in their diets, and that number remained steady throughout 2020,” according to the NPD Group’s "The Future of Plant-based Snapshot: The Evolution of Plant-based Continues." The report says that their interest extends beyond burgers and almond milk – plant-based opportunities can be found in frozen, shelf-stable, indulgent and snack categories. It also reports that about 90% of them are neither vegetarian nor vegan, so their focus is on options, and taste and convenience is most important.

Grab-and-go plant-based snacks

Plant-based snacks can be a convenient, healthy choice for consumers on the go, and food manufacturers from startups to leading CPG companies are offering many options.

For example, Brothers All-Natural, based in Rochester, N.Y., offers freeze-dried fruit snacks in 0.35-oz. bags and 1-oz. bags.

“Our Fuji apples, strawberries, bananas, Asian pears and mangos are freeze-dried to retain the flavors and nutrients of the fruit with no additives or preservatives,” said Andy Keane, marketing manager. “Our fruit products are allergen-friendly and contain one ingredient – fruit.” The convenient packaging makes them perfect for on-the-go snacking.

“There are multiple options for plant-based options in every category of food. The category is consistently growing, and consumers are continuing to buy healthier food products everywhere,” Keane added.

For another healthy option, Dang Foods, based in Berkeley, California, offers Coconut Chips and Thai Rice Chips. The company’s founder, Vincent Kitirattragarn, was inspired by his Thai-American heritage to create snacks with Asian flavors. All of its products are made with plant-based, whole food ingredients, gluten-free and non-GMO. The single-serve options are available in 0.7-oz. bags. Kitirattragarn says that signage and education of benefits of plant-based nutrition is important for merchandising the products.

To meet the demand for vegetables on-the-go, companies such as Florida-based Poshi offers Steamed & Marinated Vegetable Snacks, including Marinated Artichokes with Basil & Thyme 1.58 oz., Marinated Asparagus Rosemary & Oregano 1.34 oz, Marinated Cauliflower Salt & Black Pepper 1.58 oz., and Marinated French Beans Lime & Garlic 1.76 oz.

Among these, artichokes and cauliflower items are the best sellers, says Doruk Karakasoglu, vice president of sales and co-founder of Poshi. The veggie packs are peeled, steam cooked and lightly marinated.

The company also offers Oloves Marinated Pitted Olive Snacks – including Pitted Green Olives with flavors of Basil Garlic, Lemon Rosemary and Chili Oregano and Pitted Kalamata Olives with Chili Garlic flavor in convenient 1.1-oz. packages.

Both Poshi and Oloves products are non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, keto-friendly, liquid-free and shelf stable.

Karakasoglu says that convenience service operators can best merchandise the products by showing and educating consumers that the displayed product is plant based. And, he is seeing a lot of growth potential.

“The plant-based category is popular and growing continuously. Using clean ingredients would be a key factor in the near future to differentiate products,” he said.

“The plant-based category is popular and growing continuously. Using clean ingredients would be a key factor in the near future to differentiate products,” he said.

Lastly, reinventing pickling for the next generation is Wisconsin-based GLK Foods’ Oh Snap! Pickled Veggies. The single-serve pickled snacks include three sliced pickle items at 3.25 fl. oz. – Dilly Bites, Hottie Bites, Sassy Bites; two whole pickle items at 3.0 fl. oz. – Gone Dilly (classic dill), Hottie (dill & spice); and three pickled veggies – Carrot Cuties (carrot sticks) at 2.25 fl. oz., and Cool Beans (green beans) and Pretty Peas (snap peas) at 1.5 fl. oz. 

All are gluten-free, fat-free, vegan, and made with non-GMO veggies. They are packed in convenient single-serve pouches with no added brine, and products can be placed in open-air coolers, behind cooler doors and in refrigerated vending machines.

“Oh Snap! brand has delivered over 60% growth year over year since launch in 2015,” said Ben Wehner, business development manager. “And, it has over 175,000 points of distribution across the U.S. and Canada.” Nationally, over 100 million Oh Snap! pickles and pickled veggies are enjoyed each year.

“Consumers are searching for more plant-based snacking options in convenient single-serve packaging, but, most of all, that are great tasting,” added Wehner. ■

About the Author

Molly Rogers | Editor-in-Chief

Molly Rogers was the editor-in-chief of Automatic Merchandiser and, bringing 20 years of experience in custom publishing, B2B and B2C magazines, as well as advertising and marketing. She is dedicated to serving readers by covering the latest news in the vending, office coffee service and micro market industry and helping companies connect to their audiences through strong editorial solutions. Molly is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and she can be reached at [email protected] or (205) 409-0843.


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