Meat’s moment

It should come as no surprise that sales of meat alternatives have taken a knock – read more here.

Worldwide, the sector has experienced turbulence as a number of the leading players have suffered revenue declines and share price dips. Such news has prompted observers to ask if meat alternatives is a bubble waiting to burst. Furthermore, investors have cooled on the sector for now.

What is concerning isn’t the headline numbers but the AHDB’s analysis of why consumers aren’t opting for meat alternatives. More than a million fewer households bought meat-free products this January compared to last year with only 13.7% of households buying one (AHDB/Kantar, 3 w/e 22 January 2023). This compares to 96.4% of households buying meat, fish or poultry (MFP) in the first three weeks of the year.

Meat-free remains a small part of the market, maintaining a 2% volume share it has seen over the last four years, the AHDB finds. There appears to be clear air between the two in terms of cost, lack of interest and taste.

Demand for meat alternatives has grown and will continue to rise, but the industry still has hurdles to overcome in different parts of the world. Despite the emergence of vegan sausage rolls to lab-grown meat, meat consumption is still prevalent and is even set to rise as populations grow, especially in the case of developing economies.

Inevitably, there will be a swing back as prices fall and studies continue to highlight the impact of meat consumption on people’s health and the environment; government regulation towards more sustainable meat consumption will play a significant role also.

As ever, the replication of the taste and texture of meat is key to move the needle of consumer preferences. In order for meat alternatives to reach its full market potential the sector must continue to break free of its association with traditional mock meats. Consumers seemingly want more. The appeal of meat alternatives appeal is viewed as limited to certain groups.

Meat, in contrast, remains central to many consumers’ diets despite an overall consumer trend of spending more conservatively. Consumption patterns may change but as the AHDB points out, there are opportunities for producers from a growing demand for convenience to reminding shoppers of the health benefits of meat.

Meat’s future is assured for now. Protein will not disappear from consumers’ diets. The question is, how will they consume it?

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