The Dutch consume the most plant-based products in Europe
A recent report revealed that the Dutch have the highest consumption of plant-based foods per capita and the Netherlands is the 6th largest plant-based market in Europe. Overall, European sales of plant-based foods grew 21% between 2020 and 2022, hitting a record high on the continent as new innovations have made alternatives to animal products more accessible.
Record sales of plant-based products
A market insight report by Good Food Institute (GFI) and NielsenIQ looked at data from 13 countries and found that retail sales of plant-based foods in Europe increased by 6% in 2022 and 21% since 2020 – reaching a record €5.8 billion. The Netherlands is the 6th largest plant-based market in Europe, with the Dutch consumer market growing 9% in the last 3 years to €441.4 million.
While Germany claims the top spot in terms of market size, the report reveals that the Dutch have the highest consumption of plant-based foods per capita. Plant-based meat is the most developed product category, with the traditional Dutch diet of ‘meat, potatoes and vegetables’ shifting to include alternative protein products.
Plant-based milk sales are also on the rise, growing 14% to €106.2 million since 2020. This can be seen in many Dutch specialty cafes, where alternative milks are readily available. For example, in Amsterdam you’ll find that some cafes only offer plant-based milk options – foregoing animal products entirely.
Plant-based cheese is the fastest growing category in the country – increasing by 60% since 2020. As a well-known cheese country, the standards for plant-based alternatives are high. Recent developments by food tech companies such as Amsterdam-based Mr. & Mrs. Watson, who launched the first plant-based Dutch cheese wheel last year, have increased the availability of tasty cheese alternatives helping to boost product sales in this category.
Meat is no longer the norm
In 2018, the Dutch national campaign ‘Week Zonder Vlees’ or ‘Week Without Meat’ was started to encourage citizens to adopt a more vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’ diet. The annual campaign challenges people to eliminate animal products from their diet for one week, inspiring them eat less meat and dairy on a regular basis. In 2019, the municipality of Amsterdam announced that vegetarian food would be the default at government catered events, unseating meat as a menu staple and making plant-based the norm.
In the future, the city of Amsterdam plans to encourage citizens to eat 50% plant-based by 2030 and 60% by 2040. This involves making animal product alternatives more available throughout the city’s grocery stores and promoting meat and dairy alternatives. In fact, the neighbouring city of Haarlam made headlines in 2022 by being the first in the world to ban meat advertisements in an effort to curb consumption.
Cultivating the food tech sector
The Amsterdam Area is home to many food industry leaders that are pioneering more sustainable and plant-based alternatives. From plant-based cheese producer Willicroft expanding sales across Europe to the unveiling of the world’s first meatball made of cultured mammoth meat (proving meat production is possible without animal suffering and environmental damage), the city is a hotbed for food focused innovation. In fact, last year Amsterdam was named 2nd best place in Europe for agtech and food startups and recently hosted the 1st annual Plant FWD conference – a 1-day plant-based convention that focuses on connecting businesses, investors, talent and policy makers to transition to a plant-based future.