Plant-Based Protein: It's Actually Meat Now🌿🥩

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
November 30, 2020

Good Monday, fellow nerds! Feeling maxed out on Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals? 🤑 The Modern Health Nerd is here to drag you out of the mire of online retail therapy and into the latest plant-based/alt protein headlines.

…okay, then you can go back to shopping. Just don’t blame me if your credit card melts. 🤣

Plant-Based Meat Hits the Big Time

Roll out the red carpet: The International Trade Fair for the Meat Industry (IFFA) will welcome representatives of plant-based and cell-based meat for the first time in 2022.

Why is this huge deal? IFFA is the largest global meat industry tradeshow, so the decision effectively means the industry is beginning to recognize alt protein as a legitimate part of the meat category. 🍗🍖🥩

Identified as “a boost to innovation” from a “booming” sector, alt protein is growing far more rapidly than animal protein. Revenue is expected to jump from $21 billion in 2025 to $35 million by 2027, 📈 in contrast to an 0.2% annual increase in the animal meat category.

ProForm Foods—makers of MEET brand plant-based meats—offers one impressive example of this growth. The Australian company recently opened an $11 million facility near Sydney with enough capacity to produce 5,000 tons of alt protein per year.

Other “major players” like Pinnacle Foods, Sweet Earth, Kraft Heinz, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Turtle Island are also making waves the category alongside a plethora of innovative startups.

Photo by Tioroshi Lazaro from Pexels

Alt Protein Says Goodbye to the Frozen Aisle 🥶

In the midst of this crazy growth, the plant-based category is making its way out of the freezer and into the refrigerated section. What started with a select few big names is becoming a growing trend; move over, meat! 🐄

Refrigerated plant-based burger sales went up 123% in a year and 555% in 2 years according to SPINS data. Meanwhile, consumers purchased 4% fewer frozen products in the same category. The buying spree appears to be driven by people who want meals to have meaty textures, flavors and nutrient profiles similar to animal meat without actually consuming animals. 🤔

It’s  a trend that not only continues to drive the growth in alternative protein but also opens a door of opportunity for companies crafting healthy whole-food options—like NYC-based “plant-only” burger company Actual Veggies.

Cleaner & Greener: Food Additives Grow Up

Speaking of healthier options, it’s time that all those bizarre additives nobody can pronounce got a makeover. Or better yet, got trashed all together.

It’s starting to happen. 😁

Clean label has become a hot topic in the recent past, driven in part by consumers’ growing awareness of how food affects their bodies. Brands—and by extension, ingredient manufacturers—are responding with strategic re-formulations and innovative sourcing.

Matching the vibrant colors of artificial ingredients can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s possible with plants. New formulations have applications for plant-based product brands, as well as producers of traditional treats. (Apparently, consumers even want healthier junk food! 🍔🍟🍬🍭) Switching to natural flavorings and replacing artificial preservatives with natural bacterial inhibitors are also key parts of this ongoing shift.

The biggest hurdle to clear? Meeting consumers’ expectations without fundamentally changing the flavors or textures of the products they know and love.

As we look back on another week of astronomical growth in the plant-based sector’s visibility and scope, I can’t help but continue musing on the balance between health and taste satisfaction. 💭

The two aren’t mutually exclusive, as anyone who’s been following a healthy lifestyle for a while can tell you. But the journey to find that happy medium happens much more slowly in the marketplace than it does on a personal level.

The average consumer is still seeking “healthier” alternatives to everything they eat, right down to things like fast food and candy—which in and of itself reveals a significant level of confusion as to what constitutes healthy. 👩🏻⚕️🥗

How can plant-based and alt protein companies help consumers strike that balance? I’m looking forward to seeing the solutions today’s innovators come up with in answer to that question—and would love to hear your thoughts. 👇🏻👇🏻

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