Industry Insights

The shape of plant-based trends to come

  • Multi Asset
  • Consumer
  • Europe

The Economist hailed 2019 as the year of the vegan, with the once-fringe lifestyle choice moving mainstream for consumers. And numerous big businesses latched on too, with close to a quarter of new food products released in the UK labelled vegan in that year. However, following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic uncertainty across the world, new forces are shaping this relatively nascent industry.

The global meat market is worth USD 2tn, explained a former C-level executive from Impossible Foods Inc, with plant-based alternatives making up only a fraction of this. Although the faux-meat category is growing faster than the former, the small base means that it is far outstripped in absolute terms, added a former C-level executive from Tyson Ventures. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant ventures involved in the alternative meat industry. Investments in 2019 stood at USD 824m – and this year has already eclipsed that amount, with USD 1.5bn raised in January-July 2020.

Vegans and vegetarians make up a minority of populations; a former C-level executive from Meatless Farms Inc estimated these figures at around 1-2% and 10-15% respectively. However, “the bigger business opportunity comes from this term flexitarian or meat reducers” – in the UK alone, there are “around 22 million flexitarians, so maybe a third of the population consciously trying to reduce meat as part of their lifestyle.” Meanwhile, in the US, 23% of people had cut their meat consumption in the prior year, according to a Gallup poll conducted in late 2019.

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