What Is the Future for Alternative Meats?

What Is the Future for Alternative Meats?

Read Time: 4 Minutes

Alternative meat products burst on the scene with the possibility to change the way humans think about beef, chicken, and pork. The market for alternative meats saw a slowdown recently, but that doesn’t mean the promise of these plant-based products has gone away. To uncover uncommon insights into the industry, GLG’s Sam Stopps hosted a teleconference with Mark Post, GLG Network Member and co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Mosa Meat. What follows is an edited excerpt from their longer conversation.

Can you provide an overview of the plant-based meat sector and the key products in this space?

The meat alternatives industry has grown in recent years, but it remains relatively fragmented.

A few large players like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods command most of the market share. That said, there are many smaller brands, some of which are being acquired by large companies like JBS and Unilever.

One of the reasons for the growth of the meat alternatives industry is that these products are not targeted to vegetarians and vegans. Both Beyond and Impossible catered to meat eaters from the very beginning, labeling it as a kind of meat and wanting it to be in the meat aisle of the supermarket. Both companies also sold to Burger King and McDonald’s. That helped meat alternatives become widely available, and even now many major retailers have started carrying them.

The product portfolio in the meat alternatives industry is also expanding. Frozen products have seen the highest growth. The industry is also making more poultry products as opposed to alternative beef or pork products.

Can you discuss how big the plant-based meat market is in terms of global sales?

Current sales are about $6 billion worldwide. Half of that is in Europe, a quarter is in the U.S., and a quarter is in the rest of the world, with Australia and Asia being the biggest components.

The market is still relatively small, but it’s growing by about 10% to 15% a year.

Germany is by far the biggest consumer, followed by the UK. Those two countries account for about half of the European consumption. Interestingly, India now hosts eight start-up plant-based meat companies, but it’s a very small market — $30 million compared with $900 million in Germany.

Beyond Meat’s revenue declined by around $80 million in Q4 2022. Why did the sales and stocks of some of the major plant-based meat companies suffer so much in late 2022?

The short answer is the pandemic and inflation had a big effect, but there is some consumer dissatisfaction.

The pandemic affected the restaurant industry, where meat alternatives are often sold. Inflation has made meat alternatives more expensive.

Additionally, some consumers have found that meat alternatives do not taste or perform as well as real meat, leading them to stop buying them.

We witnessed an initial surge of consumption of plant-based meats because of the new consumer target: meat eaters. They apparently tried it but did not follow up with sustained consumption because regular meat is good, cheap, and readily available. There’s also the belief that real meat is wholesome and therefore good for you.

However, the meat alternatives industry is still young and growing, and it is likely it will overcome these challenges in the future. For now, these factors are contributing to the decline in sales.

Can you share your views on how many consumers in the next few years are likely to start adopting more plant-based meats into their diet?

The projections in the U.S. and the EU are somewhere between 10% and 15% growth.

It remains a small industry compared with livestock agriculture, but if you’re in the industry and you want to start a business, now could be a good time. The industry’s growth is determined mostly by consumer acceptance of the products. There is really a drive among some consumers, especially in Europe, toward reducing meat consumption, or even becoming vegetarian or vegan.

These consumers are usually students and highly educated people, but there are signs the trend will eventually spread over the entire population. In the next 30 years, the industry could increase its market share based on the consumer pool. Some predictions estimate that in the next 20 years or so, about half of all regular meat will be replaced by alternatives like cultivated meat and plant-based meat. The mix of alternatives will eventually replace livestock agriculture meat.

Can you discuss how lab-grown meat compares with other plant-based alternatives in terms of production costs but also consumer sentiment around texture, flavour, and overall taste?

Cultivated meat, which is cell-based and lab-grown, is more expensive to produce than plant-based substitutes because it requires a high-tech fermentation-based system and longer culture time to create it. Surveys show that consumer acceptance of cultivated meat is high, although it remains to be seen if this will hold true once products become widely available.

Currently, the muscle component of cultivated meat is not great at mimicking muscle composition and texture of livestock meat, but the fat component is superior to plant-based fats in terms of health characteristics, taste, and cooking behavior. Therefore, hybrid products made from plant-based proteins and cultured fat are expected to be introduced soon.

Any final thoughts?

In the long run, I think plant-based meat substitutes will just be an intermediary product that moves populations toward traditional vegetarian diets. To make these meat alternatives, you take soy proteins and pea proteins and whatever other proteins you use that are perfectly consumable by people in wonderful dishes and you make them into something that they’re not — a meat product. Eventually, in 30 or so years, this could become unsustainable. A lot of companies will not care about creating meat alternatives because after, say, the year 2050, they will start to disappear and be replaced by regular plant-based dishes that, for instance, have been eaten for centuries in India.

About Mark Post
Mark Post is co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Mosa Meat, one of the largest firms specialising in cultured/lab-grown meat products. Mark is also Chief Science Officer at Qorium, a biotechnology company focused on production of premium, cell-cultured, and collagen-based leather. In 2013, he presented the world’s first hamburger from stem cells.

This article is adapted from the GLG Teleconference “Plant-Based Meat Sector: An Industry in Decline?” If you would like access to this event or would like to speak with experts like Mark Post or any of our approximately 1 million industry experts, contact us.

Questions Asked During the Teleconference:

  • To start, can you provide an overview of the plant-based meat sector and the key products in this space?
  • Can you discuss how big the plant-based meat market is in terms of global sales across the previous years?
  • Could you kindly discuss in a bit more detail the key companies in the plant-based sector? Are there any smaller players relevant in 2023?

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