More Than Half of All Plant-Based Foods Are Non-GMO Project Verified – and Growing

Consumer preference shows GMOs are not wanted or needed in the innovative plant-based space

Bellingham, Wash.September 7, 2022 – Last year plant-based food sales grew three times faster than total sales, with market value at an all-time high of $7.4 billion. One of the fastest growing product categories, plant-based foods is expected to reach $162 billion in the next decade. Eaters are drawn to plant-based foods for reasons such as health, climate, and affordability. SPINS reports about 52% of overall plant-based sales are Non-GMO Project Verified. At the same time, new research shows explosive growth of Verified products in the plant-based space – a bellwether signaling consumer demand is headed toward non-GMO plant-based options.  

Many companies without the Butterfly mark rely on traditional GMOs such as soybeans and corn. Moreover, significant investment is being made in new GMOs using synthetic biology (synbio), to create a range of ingredients for plant-based products, including non-animal dairy proteins, fats, and blood-like compounds such as “heme.” The new products made with GMOs are being marketed directly to natural shoppers and retailers, using unfamiliar terms such as “precision fermentation,” “animal free,” and “nature identical.” These synthetic products are entering the market largely unregulated and unlabeled, compromising the consumer’s right to know what’s in their food.

“The Non-GMO Project supports appropriate innovation and technology for creating new, wholesome vegan and vegetarian options, but we are seeing synthetic ingredients infiltrating the plant-based space,” cautions Megan Westgate, founder and executive director of the Non-GMO Project, North America’s most relied-upon non-GMO authority. “Let’s keep plant-based foods naturally non-GMO. And if they do contain GMOs, at least label them clearly, so people can choose to avoid them.”

Data show that consumers are looking for the Butterfly. In a new case study of growth of sales from 2019-2021, SPINS data found that Non-GMO Project Verified frozen plant-based meat alternatives rose +71.7%, as opposed to only +10.4% for unlabeled products in the same category. 

“It’s hard to ignore the opportunistic nature of some of the GMO-based companies, targeting plant-seeking consumers. Most people who are looking for animal protein alternatives want real plants; this transition is often cultural and personal,” says Alicia Kennedy, food writer, author and veganism expert. “The problem is that many consumers have no idea that some of these products are made from industrial GMOs and synthetic ingredients. Products are largely not labeled. Vegetarianism and veganism have been co-opted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists, where once they were often a protest against industrial foods. Why is that?”

“We know there is a big and growing movement to embrace sustainable plant-based proteins, and we believe the leading edge of innovation is actually non-GMO and organic. It’s important that shoppers have that option and many Non-GMO Project Verified brands are showing how great real food can be,” said Nicole Atchison, CEO of PURIS Holdings, which was named Fast Company’s Most Innovative Food Company in 2021. “We can make vegan options available and truly sustainable by using natural, non-GMO ingredients — that’s what most people want, too.”

On September 14 at 9 am PST, the Project will host a live industry seminar Who’s Driving the Future of Plant-Based Foods? Non-GMO Innovation in the Fastest Growing Category. Industry experts and thought leaders will discuss the convergence of sustainability, demand for plant-based food, and the need for food sovereignty. What does innovation in plant-based foods look like without GMOs? Are products made with new GMOs even in demand? The seminar will explore these questions and more, plus live audience questions at the end.

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The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices. As the market leader for GMO avoidance, the Project offers North America’s most rigorous and trusted third-party verification for non-GMO food and products.