The Good Food Institute Israel reports a significant rise in the purchase of “alternative protein” – that is, plant-based rather than animal-based – during 2020.

StoreNext data collected from all physical and online retail chains in Israel shows that while both animal-based products and alternative protein products enjoyed a spike in the pandemic year, the increase in the alternative protein market was 13 times larger.

“My estimate is that Israel is one of the fastest-growing alternative protein markets in 2020,” Nir Goldstein, managing director of GFI Israel, tells ISRAEL21c.

That educated guess will be confirmed only around March, when other countries follow GFI Israel’s world lead in publishing last year’s data, he adds.

Some of the details:

• Consumption of soy drinks increased by about 23 percent over 2019. Purchase of non-soy plant-based drinks (rice, oats, almonds) grew by 55%.

• Purchases of all dairy substitutes, including cheese and yogurt, increased by 40%.

• The alternative meat market grew about 24% from 2019 to 2020, largely based on sales of plant-based ground “meat” and burgers, followed by vegetable schnitzel and sausages, especially in the last quarter of 2020.

“Alternative milk currently accounts for 13% of the Israeli milk market — the exact same market share that milk substitutes occupy in the American market,” says GFI Israel Business Engagement Manager Aviv Oren. He anticipates that this growth will continue with the entry of new technologies and major players in that market.

“The change in Israeli society is evident,” says Omri Paz, CEO and founder of the Vegan Friendly nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting plant-based diets.

“In the last quarter of 2020 there was a decrease of 10% in the consumption of animal-based meat and fish.”

Oren noted that there’s still a lack of fish and egg substitutes, “but there are some interesting developments in that direction as well.”

GFI, an international nonprofit, offers $5 million in annual research grants to advance the field of alternative protein.