The plant-based meat industry has grown to a $ 20 billion business – but there are still challenges


A visitor tries a plant-based meat substitute product at the Restaurant & Bar and Gourmet Asia trade show at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020.

Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Demand for meat alternatives has grown and will continue to rise, but the industry still has obstacles to overcome in different parts of the world, analysts said.

Worldwide search interest in the term “plant-based meat” increased in high season in early 2019 months before Beyond Meat’s first IPO according to Google Trends.

The global meat substitute sector is worth $ 20.7 billion and is expected to grow to $ 23.2 billion by 2024, market research firm Euromonitor told CNBC.

This growth is fueled by concerns ranging from animal welfare to food safety and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In this era of shock and instability, building a low-risk value chain means focusing on where the opportunities are, and the shift to plant-based meat shows no signs of slowing down,” said Elaine Siu, CEO of The Good Food. Institute Asia Pacific.

But there are still obstacles to the burgeoning market.

Cultural barriers

The plant-based meat market in Asia may be limited by established perception problems, Siu said.

For example, mock meat or vegetarian meat was formerly eaten primarily by followers of Buddhism in China, she said.

“Replication of the taste and texture of the meat was never pushed past a relatively basic level,” she said, adding that these traditional products serve a specific purpose and “their appeal is considered limited” to certain groups.

“For plant-based meat to reach its full market potential in Asia, the sector must continue to free itself from its affiliation with traditional mock meat, which is expected to be sold at a low price point and with historical imagery,” Siu said.

Objections from the traditional meat industry

A herd of beef cattle gathers in the shade of the old barn May 4, 2020 in Owings, Maryland.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“The established producers will lobby their governments hard to change labeling, to mess around with consumer ads to say you can not call it meat,” Powell told CNBC via Zoom. “I think that’s potentially one of the biggest barriers.”

That In October, the European Union rejected proposals to ban restaurants and shops from using words like sausage or burger when describing meat alternatives.

Consumer confidence, consumer fatigue

Powell added that if any of the plant-based meat companies had “some kind of accident” or a problem with their recipe that resulted in a “massive recall” that could scare customers into eating these alternatives.

“This is a big ‘if’ … but if they were to get a major recall of a product, it could potentially tie consumers’ trust,” he said. “At some point, you will get these events. It will set the industry back a bit.”

Separately, Powell said “Instagram mobility” of plant-based foods is one of the reasons the market is growing “anywhere in the world.” Market growth could be hampered if the news of meat alternatives disappears or disappears, he said.

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