The introduction of new alternative meat products into the grocery aisle, the fast food drive-in, and the trend towards healthier eating patterns are all factors in the reports issued on Wednesday that Barclays, JP Morgan, and other analysts predict regarding plant-based alternative meat products.
Those major analysts predict that the market for plant-based products will grow to $140 billion in 10 years. The major players in the industry segment, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are banking on getting their share of that revenue influx. The combined effect of consumers being more health-conscious along with dietary restrictions (gluten allergy, soy allergy, vegan) as well as supply issues with traditional beef have led to this trend toward alternative meat products.
The secondary impact of the supply issues with beef and chicken are rising costs for those commodities, which has a direct effect on the profitability of a restaurant, diner, or fast food outlet. The mainstream launch into the alternative meat market has been spearheaded by Burger King with a partnership with Impossible Foods which has produced the “Impossible Whopper” sandwich.
The alternative meat version of a classic American hamburger sold so robustly in the test market phase that it has been rolled out nationally by Burger King. This news has been met with speculation that their rival, McDonald’s , will introduce a plant-based alternative meat burger option in the near future. It is speculated that they will work with Beyond Meat as a partner in that project.
The alternative meat option for products such as The Whopper, will provide an option to vegetarians and others who do not eat meat to become fast food consumers, and it opens options for hardcore fast food customers who struggle with having red meat 5 times or more per week. Those customers can now eat the alternative product, which all reviews say tastes like the “real meat” Whopper version, that they can visit Burger King every day, or nearly every day and use the plant-based option two or three times per week.
The gains from the fast food offerings and the additions to the grocery aisle will provide significant growth in sales for both companies as well as the rest of the industry segment. It should be noted that none of the players in the alternative meat space have developed an alternative to chicken.
Chicken, as a commodity, is still priced competitively and comparatively cost effectively when compared to the other traditional proteins and the plant-based protein alternatives. It remains to be seen whether that will play a role in a further shift by the restaurant, fast casual, and fast food outlets toward even more menu items that feature chicken.
The medical community has produced data for years around the dangers of eating too much red meat. The alternative meat trend is a response both in the grocery store aisle and the fast food counter to offset the trend towards eating less red meat. It is also a way to maintain profitability as the alternative meat protein sources are less expensive than beef to produce.
The demographics of the U.S. have changed as well, with Baby Boomers retiring and becoming more health-conscious with the time to dine out more frequently. The other end of the spectrum is the Millennials who trend toward being healthier in their eating patterns than prior generations were at that age, and they are armed with endless dietary information that they use to make food choices. This younger generation is staring to come into its own and have more disposable income to dine out or spend more money on a product such as an alternative meat entrée.
The Beyond Meat product sells for about $12 per pound in comparison to ground beef which sells for $5 to $6 per pound depending on the supplier or your geographic area. That premium is something that certain consumers are willing to pay, or if their dietary needs dictate it, they will pay for the alternative meat compared to the standard ground beef option.
The Beyond Beef alternative product is also appealing to those who are looking to go GMO-free, if they have a soy allergy, or if they are gluten free due to celiac disease or another autoimmune disease that necessitates them to observe a gluten free diet.
The alternative meat trend is also gaining popularity because of the environmentally friendly benefits of producing plant-based meat products. A study by the University of Michigan found that the Beyond Beef burger used 99% less water to produce than beef, 93% less land, and 46% less energy than a beef burger.
In a time of increased environmental awareness and conservation of resources, the alternative meat products provide a “green” friendly option to consumers. All of these factors drive the formula which Barclays, JP Morgan, and other analysts used to determine the explosive growth of the plant-based alternative meat market in the next 10 years. It stands to reason that they may be correct, and in a time where health, dietary considerations, and environmental conservation are “hot button” topics this industry could be at the right place at the right time.