Those of you based in the Philadelphia area may have noticed the absolutely enormous plant-based foods section in the new Giant supermarket in Center City. Surprising? Not at all. In 2020, retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27%—bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion according to the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA). Accordingly, the growth of retail sales of plant-based foods has outpaced the growth of total food sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggests that more U.S. consumers are turning to plant-based foods amid the pandemic. And why not? Some of these new plant-based foods are not only (arguably) healthier for you but they taste good too! Have you had the Impossible sausage breakfast sandwich at Starbucks? Not only is it super tasty, it is very hard to tell that it is not “real” sausage. Long past are the days of dry miserable “veggie burgers” that many of us remember from decades ago.
With all of this growth in the plant-based food industry, how are companies looking to protect all this new IP? One form of IP protection that plant-based food companies use is patenting. Utility patents can provide protection to both the food products and the methods of making them. In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has explained that a food product or list of ingredients can fall into the categories of a composition of matter and manufacture, and the way the food product is produced can fall under a process.