The Next Wave (of Protein) is Here, and It's Plant-Based

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
October 19, 2020

Good Monday, fellow nerds! Monday may not be a fun day (ouch, I know that was bad 😂🤣), but today’s news roundup should at least give you something to think about besides the fact that you’re out of coffee again.

Wait…are you out of coffee? That’s tragic! Go get some! ☕ Then dig into the plant-based headlines and trends of this week. We’re looking at the real drivers behind the surge in plant-based meat sales — and how companies around the world are responding.

What’s Really Driving Plant-Based Meat Purchases?

Depending on the data you look at, March of this year saw a bump of somewhere between 231% and 454% in plant-based meat sales, compared to a 40% increase for conventional meat. 🌱🍖 The statistic has been cited quite a bit in recent plant-based news as a sign that meat will soon be passé, but it’s always a good idea to dig deeper and see exactly what’s going on.

Food fear is certainly running high around the world.

According to Gallup’s World Risk Poll, 60% of the global population is worried about food safety in some capacity. And no wonder, considering 1 billion people were “harmed” by food in some way during the two years prior to the poll. 📊 The problem is particularly bad in low-income countries, where food safety systems may be lacking or nonexistent.

Add to this the statistic that 47% of Americans increased their intake of plant-based foods during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it makes for a pretty strong case in favor of health and safety concerns as a driver for the growing interest in plant-based products. However, other data shows that only 25% of consumers actually expressed any kind of COVID-related concerns about eating meat.

So what exactly is going on?🤔Part of it may simply come down to novelty. Many consumers try plant-based products because they’re interested in testing out new foods. Others are lured by the “health halo” 🥗 surrounding the movement. Whatever the case, the plant-based sector had already seen quick and consistent growth—38% between 2017 and 2019—and pre-pandemic projections showed the industry hitting the $85 billion mark by 2030.

It remains to be seen whether the upward trend will continue at its accelerated pace or return to a slower (but still steady) rate of growth as markets shift back toward normal.

 Photo by Votsis Panagiotis from Pexels

Alt Protein is Here to Stay, Worldwide

No matter what happens with market growth, it’s clear the next generation of protein is here to stay.

New plant-based businesses are exploding into existence across the globe, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

India is becoming particularly prolific on the plant-based front. The Good Food Institute predicts the country’s branch of the industry could be worth as much is is $1 billion by 2030. 💰�

Entrepreneurs are on a quest for a healthy and sustainable protein supply, and investors are stepping up to fund new alt proteins startups across India to help them realize their dreams.

The $135 million flowing into the LIVEKINDLY Co.’s alt protein collective is yet another signal of the plant-based expansion. By working with growers, producers and distributors to create and support plant-based brands, the company is able to manage every part of the value chain. It’s a powerful combination, and LIVEKINDLY 🌿 plans to leverage it in an effort to expand its products across the US and China.

Meanwhile, Big Names Jump on the Trend Bandwagon

Move over, everybody: Kroger is on a roll with its plant-based line! 🛒The Simple Truth brand, launched just last year, is about to expand with more than 50 new items, bringing the total to over 75 foods and beverages by the end of 2020. As Kroger apparently seeks to capitalize on the plant-based boom, 💥 the private-label brand has been seeing significant growth—to the tune of $2.5 billion in sales since 2019.

Panera, on the other hand, is appealing to a different consumer concern: the carbon footprint.

The chain’s new “Cool Food” ☃❄ meal label points diners to “climate-friendly” menu items, which begs the question: Will environmental impact become the new food industry buzzword?

That may depend on the data. Panera makes all the stats on its dishes available to the public—but as of yet, the standard American way of eating is the only yardstick against which the chain is measuring sustainability. 🍔🍟 Restaurants getting into the climate-friendly space are likely to find themselves competing with messages from plant-based brands pointing to significantly reduced resource consumption as a benefit of moving away from meat.

Reading about plant-based trends always makes me hungry! 😋🍴Demands of the stomach aside, do you think the plant-based boom will continue? 🌿 Or will the focus change as other players in the food industry seek to shift the narrative?