Meat and Dairy Alternatives are a Catalyst for Grocery Store Sales in Canada

Meat and Dairy Alternatives are a Catalyst for Grocery Store Sales in Canada

Tofu, tempeh, quinoa and edamame may sound like nonsensical words to some, but to others, these high protein, non-meat and dairy alternatives have become shopping basket staples. And as more Canadians become interested in following vegetarian or vegan diets or seek to reduce their consumption of animal products, these products, and many more, are benefitting from consumers looking for traditional meat and dairy alternatives.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) growth was minimal in Canada last year, and inflation was partly responsible for the growth that was reported, making consumption growth elusive. Nevertheless, the meat and dairy alternatives category grew by $31 million, fueled by a 14% increase in consumption growth, making it one of the fastest growing FMCG categories in 2018.

The meat and dairy alternatives category in Canada grew by $31 million in 2018

While only 20% of Canadian households consider themselves vegan or vegetarian, more than one-quarter (27%) of households buy meat and dairy alternative products. So it’s clear that these products aren’t just appealing to vegans and vegetarians. Notably, they’re making their way into an increasing number of Canadian households, and we expect that trend to continue.

Importantly, the shifts we’re tracking are having an impact on protein sales. Specifically, Canadians are consuming less meat. In the last two years, the Canadian population has grown by 1.4%, but consumers bought 4% less meat (in kilograms) over the same period.

And it’s not just meat and dairy alternatives that are influencing the way Canadians eat and what they buy. Medical, cultural and other diet trends play a part in future sales. In Canada, the number of households with at least one person following a special diet (e.g., gluten free, glycemic, Halal and Kosher) is growing. Gluten-free households are leading as 11% of households, (up 2% from2016) have at least one person following a gluten-free diet. Other special diet households include glycemic (7%), Halal (3%) and Kosher (3%).

Understanding consumer preferences and diet requirements is critical for successful in-store shelf execution. In addition, now that inflation has returned to the Canadian FMCG industry, the right pricing strategies become imperative to navigate this new environment and ultimately achieve overall success across the FMCG universe.


The insights in this article were derived from Nielsen’s Emerging Category Study: Meat & Dairy Alternatives 2019.