Veganism has gained popularity a lot in recent times. It has been one of the mainstream trends in the food and beverage industry and is now gaining attention in other sectors like cosmetics, footwear, etc. The rising awareness regarding animal rights and the need to prevent the exploitation of animals has led a major population to adopt veganism. This rising vegan population is attributable to the increasing demand for vegan products.
According to a series of 24 different studies conducted by polling services, world-renowned publications, the federal government, and animal advocacy platforms, there are approximately 6.5 million Americans who self-identified themselves as vegans in the U.S. in 2019. Furthermore, according to the studies, the number is continuously going to increase as the consumers in the region are highly informed and show a greater degree of environmental consciousness.
The ethical and environmental challenges that are associated with the production and consumption of animal-based protein such as eggs, dairy, meat, etc. have been considered as one of the biggest threats to the planet with regards to public health, animal welfare as well as environmental impact.
Animal agriculture has been found as one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, to produce 1 calorie of chicken meat, 9 calories of input are required. Moreover, according to the finding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the livestock sector is responsible for the contribution of 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions and 37% of all human-induced methane emissions and deforestation.
In addition to this, the consumption of animal meat is associated with an increased risk of several long-term diseases, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Thus, the rising consumption of meat has increased animal agriculture, resulting in the spread of several zoonotic and pathogenic diseases as the animals raised for consumption are mostly pumped with antibiotics and hormones. This causes antibiotic resistance in humans on consumption and is the reason for numerous deaths per year worldwide.
According to the Vegan Society, if the world went vegan or adopted plant-based foods, it could help in saving around 8 million human lives by 2050. Therefore, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and leading to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of USD 1.5 trillion.
Various non-government organizations (NGOs) are spreading awareness regarding the nutritional benefits of an animal-free diet and promoting farm animal welfare. This is helping in increasing consciousness among individuals about animal health and cruelty against animals in the food industry, therefore, positively influencing the sales of vegan food products worldwide.
As per the data shared by the Plant-Based Foods Association, the U.S. sales of vegan food skyrocketed by more than 20% in the year 2018 topping USD 3.3 billion. Furthermore, the total vegan market was worth USD 1.96 billion in 2018, as estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture.
One of the major categories growing under vegan or plant-based foods is plant-based meat, which has been in trend recently. According to the Good Food Institute, the plant-based meat category saw a growth of 18% in its sales in the year 2019 and was worth USD 939 million. Plant-based meat has been gaining traction due to its health benefits because of being a major source of protein in place of conventional meat. It has the potential advantages of providing better health outcomes and higher nutritional value, which are expected to increase its demand in the near future.
The meat made from plants helps consumers with the daily protein supply required for better health equally like animal meat. According to the study conducted by Oxford University, it was found that a 'healthy' diet that contains less meat could prevent around 5 million deaths worldwide by 2050. Therefore, plant-based meat is likely to make space for itself in the market on a large level.
Impact of COVID-19 on Plant-Based Meat
The outbreak of coronavirus has severely impacted many economies around the world. As per the data shared by the World Health Organization (WHO), the pandemic has affected more than 200 countries infecting more than 12,880,565 people and killing 568,573 as of 14th July 2020. It has not only quickly spread to several countries and has caused public health emergencies but is also responsible for the economic crisis faced by various nations. Therefore, it has led to some best practice models for the plant-based products industry as it has conveyed to the forefront the connection between public health and animal meat consumption, which provides consumers a strong reason to adopt a plant-based diet.
The reason for the pandemic being related to the consumption of an animal has hurt the consumer sentiments, which has affected the consumption as well as the production of the meat negatively. Most people across the world are now preferring home-cooked and vegan food. In addition to this, from the point of manufacturing and distribution, the industry is anticipated to observe a surge in demand from manufacturers as well as consumers, particularly for some products such as meat analog due to its health benefits.
Future of Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat is made from a variety of ingredients, depending on the type of meat being produced. These are mostly made from ingredients that include grains and legumes, which are utilized for their proteins, fibers, and starches. Furthermore, they can be converted into isolates, flours, and concentrates.
The nutritional benefits provided by these plant-based meats and the negative impacts of animal-based meat on health is expected to increase its intake in the future. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, consuming excessive amounts of red meat is linked to high cholesterol, cancers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and other chronic, potentially deadly diseases.
Furthermore, the lookout for sustainable options for the planet includes plant-based living, which is considered to be a sustainable way of feeding the human family will also drive the demand for plant-based meat. With the growing global food and water insecurity due to a myriad of environmental and socio-economic problems, plant-based food products are expected to boom leading to the tremendous growth of plant-based meat.
Additionally, the craze for meat among individuals coupled with rising health awareness is also likely to boost the demand for plant-based meat. After observing the growing trend for plant-based meat, many companies have started making investments to expand their product portfolio in this line and meet consumer demands. For instance, Tyson Foods, Inc invested USD 55.42 million in Beyond Meat Inc, which is a US-based plant-based meat producer in December 2017.
On the other hand, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. launched its new plant-based subsidiary called Greenleaf Foods in Chicago which intends to build a portfolio of plant-based meat in the market in the year 2018. Impossible Foods also launched its plant-based meat, with a variety of dishes available at eight restaurants throughout Singapore to expand its global reach in March 2019.
The adverse impact of COVID-19 is also one of the major factors that will be responsible for the increased demand for plant-based meat. The retail chains across the globe have started making more shelf and storage space for plant-based meat products to meet the growing demand. The dietary guidelines to reduce animal meat consumption and the imposition of taxes on meat consumption will also create a surge in demand for plant-based meat products. For instance, Denmark is considering proposals for imposing a red meat tax to encourage people to consume plant-based meat products.
To summarize, a large number of the population is shifting towards the adoption of vegan food to promote animal welfare, reduce environmental impacts, and deal with the increasing concerns of animal-meat consumption on human health. Therefore, a greater number of companies are expanding their product line in plant-based meat by the expansion and launch of new products in the market which will significantly help them to reach more consumers and increase the demand for plant-based meat.
Amrita works as Research Associate in the organization and holds a degree in Master of Business Administration in Marketing Specialization. She has a strong inclination towards data analysis and consulting space. She has co-authored multiple market analysis reports for different products in the Materials & Chemical industry.