'No flash in the pan'... alternative meat market could be worth $140 billion within a decade, predicts Barclays

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Beyond Meat’s very strong IPO performance underscores the investor interest in the alt-meat space ©GettyImages/Drew Angerer
Beyond Meat’s very strong IPO performance underscores the investor interest in the alt-meat space ©GettyImages/Drew Angerer

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The alternative meat market could grow from less than $14bn today to be worth $140bn over the next 10 years, according to analysts at Barclays.

In a report entitled I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat​, analysts at Barclays predicted that plant-based and vegan players could grab 10% of the $1.4tn meat market in a decade.

“We believe there is enough evidence indicating that alternative meats are not merely a fad,”​ they wrote.

But they pointed out risks factors such as alternative meat products being less healthy than claimed as a result of additives to appeal to consumer tastes or potential regulatory restrictions that could constrain the marketing strategies of alt-meat producers.

“Although today we believe that there are inherent barriers to successfully replicating certain animal-based consumer favorites (e.g., t-bone steaks), what has been achieved so far in terms of “meatless” ground beef, sausage and hamburger products has yielded positive initial consumer reaction, which should bode well for the alternative meat sector to grab its fair share of the global meat market,”​ said Barclays. 

meat subs are growing

Investors hunt down plant-based meat opportunities

Investors were increasingly “intrigued by the emerging sector​”, according to the bank’s report. It noted that large firms such as Nestle and Kerry Group were investing in plant-based meat alternatives or developing their own. It also cited Cargill’s investment in Memphis Meats as an example of big firms partnering with California-based food technology start-ups to take part in their success.

Restaurants also had the potential to become large sellers of vegan products, the bank’s report said. Most recently, Restaurant Brands International launched tests with both Beyond Meat (at Tim Hortons)and Impossible Burger (at Burger King), with companies such as McDonald’s paying close attention. Beyond Meat’s very strong IPO performance further underscores the investor interest in the space.”

Potential growth of more than tenfold

The Barclays analysts said animal welfare, health and wellness, and environmental concerns were factors that would drive the alt-meat market.

“We believe that alternative meat can reach a market share of 10% of the global meat industry in 10 years versus a current share of less than 5% in the US and less than 1% on a global basis.”

They suggested a potential market size of $140bn by 2029 from less than $14bn today and reckoned there was a bigger market opportunity for plant-based (and maybe even lab-based) protein than perhaps was argued for electric vehicles 10 years ago – with an increasingly mainstream appeal compared with electric vehicles’ high-end, niche clientele.

top trends

“While we see some parallels to electric vehicle companies’ disruption of the car industry, we believe that the ultimate market opportunity for plant-based, and perhaps lab-based, protein is potentially even larger, given the mainstream appeal of affordable food products relative to the current high-end, niche audience targeted by electric vehicle manufacturers. With that said, we believe taste and price will ultimately dictate whether or not alternative meat gains widespread acceptance.”

Cultured, clean, fake, mock, meatless, or alternative meat options have been steadily closing the gap verse animal-based meat in recent years, noted the report.

“While lab-based meat is still likely several years away from hitting supermarket shelves, plant-based protein continues to gain ground versus its animal-based counterpart, and we expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future.”

frozen meat alternatives

One bite at a time…

But food companies still had plenty to do to turn this niche into a mainstream category, said the report. It suggested alternative meat products could only partially address health and wellness concerns, as they have lower cholesterol levels but higher amounts of sodium.

Meanwhile, while consumers were becoming increasingly aware of the environmental, animal welfare, and health and wellness impacts from the consumption of traditional meat, Barclays stated producers must target (and win over) the biggest consumers of meat.

“To make any meat alternative successful, companies need to appeal to the group that drives meat consumption, with animal protein intake levels above the recommended range: 14- to 70-year-old males. Successful adoption of alternative meat by this group could lead to the category’s success, as intake from men is not only higher relative to women and men at other ages, but also in absolute terms.”

‘Parents should be prosecuted for raising children on a vegan diet’ say Belgium doctors

The Barclays report came as doctors in Belgium prompted a furious reaction from the vegan food industry after stated that raising children on a vegan diet was "unethical​" and should be a criminal offence.

A report from the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium said that veganism was "unsuitable for unborn children, children, teenagers, and pregnant and lactating women".

Professor Georges Casimir, who led the commission that wrote the report, said vegan parenting qualified as "non-assistance to a person in danger,"​ which is a criminal offence that carries a prison sentence of up to two years. About one in three Belgian children live in vegan families.

He said children needed "higher requirements for protein and essential fatty acids"​ and that these nutrients must be from animal products.

Punishing parents for raising vegan kids is nonsense​,” tweeted Dr Rebecca Jones, a GP and a vegan. “Well-planned vegan diets reduce risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”

The animal rights group PETA called the statement of the Belgian medical association "ignorant codswallop". ​PETA spokeswoman Dawn Carr said: "Nutritionists confirm that while a meat- and dairy-based diet is what strikes people down in adulthood (as it can lead to hardened arteries that cause stroke, brain aneurysms, and heart attacks) a well-planned vegan diet is perfect for babies and children."

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