Home Tech Plant-based meat boomed. Here comes the bust

Plant-based meat boomed. Here comes the bust

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 Plant-based meat boomed. Here comes the bust

Over the past three years, the plant-based meat industry has experienced a major shift in vibe. Sales soared in the first months of the pandemic, when slaughterhouse closures were halted. conventional meat supply chains and shoppers began trying meatless burgers, sausages and seafood. Between 2018 and 2021, total U.S. plant-based food sales grew from $4.8 billion to $7.4 billion. with much of that growth driven by plant-based meat in particular.

but a new report on sales of vegan meat, dairy and seafood suggests that enthusiasm for plant-based products may be slowing. An annual report from the Good Food Institute, an alternative protein nonprofit, found that dollar sales of plant-based meat and seafood in the U.S. fell 13 percent over the past two years. As prices for meat alternatives have risen, this masks a much larger drop in unit sales over the same period: they fell 26 percent between 2021 and 2023.

A big challenge in the United States is the price of plant-based alternatives. In the United States, plant-based meats are on average 77 percent more expensive than their animal counterparts, and for cheap meats like chicken, that premium rises to more than 150 percent. Another problem is one that has dogged the industry for years: Shoppers still find plant-based products lackluster compared to animal-based alternatives. “Many consumers noted that the products still did not meet their expectations for taste, texture, and affordability,” the report’s authors wrote.

Although there has been a lot of excitement around meat alternatives, plant-based milk is still by far the biggest seller when it comes to plant-based foods. Dairy milk alternatives such as soy, oat and almond accounted for nearly 15 percent of total milk sales in the US, while the share of plant-based meat and seafood in its market It is about 1 percent. Plant-based milks alone make up nearly one-third of the entire plant-based food category in the U.S., as defined by the Good Food Institute.

Adding all other adjacent sectors, including plant-based butter, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese, U.S. sales of plant-based dairy alternatives accounted for nearly $5 billion in 2023. Milk dollar sales Plant-based products grew 9 percent through 2021-23, although unit sales decreased 10 percent during the same period. Total sales in the plant-based sector, according to the Good Food Institute, were $8.1 billion.

Plant-based meat fans point out that switching from beef burgers to plant-based burgers would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our diet. Animal proteins are a major source of emissions from food; beef, lamb and dairy contribute the highest emissions per year. kilogram of product. But with plant-based meat sales stagnating, it’s unclear whether the industry is having the impact on carbon emissions that many hope.

Prominent brands within the space are trying to get out of the swamp. Earlier this year, Impossible Foods relaunched its alternatives range with a new, meatier style deliberately aimed at attracting “meat lovers” into the plant-based fold. In February, Beyond Meat launched the fourth-generation version of its burger and ground beef, calling them “Our meatiest, juiciest products yet.”

Growing concerns about so-called ultra-processed foods have also hit the plant-based meat industry, given the large amount of processing typically needed to make its products. In response, Beyond’s new burgers have less salt and saturated fat than the previous generation, as well as a “simplified ingredient list,” while many other plant-based companies are emphasizing their “clean label” credentials.

Whether this plant-based pivot is successful or not, the stakes are high when it comes to the climate impact of our diets. For now, it seems, the plant-based revolution (at least in the United States) is getting off to a slower start than many expected.

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