Case Study

Plant-Based Meat Goes Mainstream

The growth of plant-based foods has surged over the past few years.

With a number of significant investments and product launches in recent weeks, this is one trend that shows no sign of abating. UBS predicts the US sales of plant-based protein and meat alternatives will increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030, while the sales of plant-based dairy could reach $37.5 billion in 2025.

“We need to see companies taking a more ambitious, integrated approach to sustainable nutrition — and that means addressing sustainability across plant, meat and dairy production and consumption, and putting sustainable protein at the core of business strategies.”
Lesley Mitchell, Associate Director for Sustainable Nutrition, Forum for the Future

Recent years saw plant-based meat go mainstream and expand beyond the two major disrupters, Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers. Nestlé released the Awesome Burger; Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the US, started a line of soy-based products; and Hormel began offering plant-based ground meat. Fast food venues are also catching on to the surge in demand for plant-based foods. For example, Burger King is using the Impossible Foods burger patty to make a plant-based version of their whopper and KFC has launched a plant-based chicken sandwich in the UK.

But with China accounting for 27% of the world’s meat consumption by volume, the next breakthrough for the plant-based movement will be breaking into the Chinese market. Several Chinese companies are already starting to make headway with their own new meat alternatives. Hong Kong based Green Monday, for example, has unveiled an imitation pork product made from mushroom, pea, soy and rice. Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are also racing to expand sales to China and confront Chinese skepticism about American-style, plant-based meat.

Despite a seemingly insatiable appetite for plant-based meat alternatives, booming demand does raise complex issues, such as the nutritional profile of formulations and the sustainability of ingredient sourcing. Experts are warning the industry against solving one problem by creating another. Even with the rapid growth of plant-based meat alternatives, meat consumption continues to climb globally. Forum for the Future has warned food businesses will need to move beyond consumer-driven innovations in plant-based ranges and towards an overhaul of the food system if they are to future-proof themselves and their supply chains. This requires major food companies to move beyond offering a small number of meat alternative products and take urgent action to improve the environmental impacts of existing meat and dairy supply chains.

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