Allied Market Research predicts that the global meat alternative market will reach $5.2bn by 2020, an estimated 8.4% growth from 2015, with Europe accounting for 39% of that spend.
Whilst the meat-free is still dwarfed substantially by the $741bn in global sales of meat and fish, the recent growth in the sector is significant enough to be causing sweaty palms at many UK meat manufacturers.
“The plant-based market has exploded,” says Simeon Van der Molen, founder of plant-based brand Moving Mountains.
“The appetite seems to be growing and growing and we think it’s here to stay. As more and more people are educated on the problems of animal cruelty and mass farming industrialisation, people will be looking for alternatives. It’s not just food, people have shared attitudes to the environment now, and being sustainable – and I think that’s something that will continue to grow.”
In January 2018 alone, Tesco unveiled its Wicked Kitchen range, a collection of 11 plant-based ready meals and nine on-the-go options. Then Sainsbury’s added the likes of BBQ-pulled jackfruit to a lineup of seven new plant-based products (the majority of which are not suitable for vegans).
Not to be outdone, Ocado added a further 90 products to its plant-based offering, while Waitrose announced its new ‘Good Health’ range would include three vegan SKUs. This month Iceland is also adding a ‘bleeding’ vegan burger to its freezers.
What’s driving the growth of the meat-alternative market? According to exclusive research for The Grocer by Harris Interactive found 6% of adults now class themselves as vegetarians, and have removed meat and fish from their diet.
Nearly half of those surveyed by Harris cited ethics, environment and health as the inspiration behind their decision to cut out or cut down meat consumption.
The decision by major supermarkets to invest in creating their own-label plant-based ranges will be instrumental in helping more people transition to a plant-based diet as they make plant-based products accessible and affordable to customers believes Pippa Bailey, head of innovation at Ipsos Mori. She believes that “the more frictionless it is the more likely people will be to make that change”.
“Availability within these ranges is so much broader than it ever has been, which will catch people’s eye and make it a more appealing swap,” adds Emma Clifford, Mintel’s associate director of food and drink.
According to Emily Byrd of the Good Food Institute, a US non-profit set up two years ago to make plant-based eating delicious and accessible, says: “plant-based meats are still in their infancy. But the market itself is on the cusp of a revolution. Right now, fewer than 10% of the world’s plant protein sources have been explored. Most companies are still using the same technology and machinery to make these products as they were 20 years ago.”
More and more startups such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Moving Mountains are trying to change the way in which we view plant-based meat alternatives by creating innovative products that look, cook, and taste like meat.
“On first glance, our burger patty looks exactly like a raw meat burger, except the ‘bleed’ comes from beetroot juice and the succulent texture from coconut oil,” says Van der Molen.
“The B12 Burger is designed for people who are used to eating meat but ultimately want a more sustainable alternative.”