People appear to have fallen out of love with plant-based meat

According to an article by Bloomberg, investors and consumers are losing interest in plant-based meat. Could this be the end?
Christopher McFadden
Lab-grown cultured vegan meat sample
Lab-grown cultured vegan meat sample


Not too long ago, it appeared that much of America was willing to join the plant-based beef bandwagon. But, according to various sources, including Bloomberg, plant-based meat may have seen its zenith and is already falling out of favor.

According to Global Citizen, in 2019, plant-based meat accounted for only about 1% of all meat sales nationwide. Still, it appeared that the percentage would rise due to the development of better products, significant infusions of cash into plant-based meat companies, and an initiative by restaurants like Burger King to promote protein.

But while plant-based meat, like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, has been gaining popularity recently, many are now questioning its viability, with others going so far as to label it a fad.

However, others believe that plant-based meat is here to stay and will continue to gain market share as more people become aware of reducing meat consumption's environmental and health benefits.

In the past few years, the market for plant-based meat has grown a lot, and some experts think it will continue to grow in the years to come. This growth is due to several things, such as more people wanting plant-based options, improvements in the taste and texture of plant-based meat products, and more people becoming aware of the environmental and health benefits of eating less meat.

Also, big food companies like Tyson, Nestle, and Unilever have put money into plant-based alternatives to meat, and some fast food chains have started to offer plant-based meat options.

Others also claim plant-based meat to be healthier and more environmentally friendly than beef, pork, and other animal meats. For example, Unilever Food Solutions says that meat from vegetables uses less water and land than raising cattle.

Plant-based meats contain a lot of additives

However, like anything, there are no solutions, only compromises.

Plant-based meat products usually have a lot of different ingredients, such as plant-based proteins like soy or pea protein, binders, flavors, and other additives that help them taste and feel like meat. These include, but are not limited to: -

  • Carrageenan: a thickener and stabilizer derived from red algae.

  • Methylcellulose: a thickener and emulsifier derived from plant fibers.

  • Yeast extract: a flavor enhancer that can give plant-based meat products a "savory" taste.

  • Pea protein isolate

  • Soy protein isolate

  • Rice protein

  • Tapioca starch

  • Beet juice extract

  • Salt

  • Spices and herbs

In fact, according to Bloomberg's research, many consumers were shocked by some of the additives, especially the amount of salt added to these products. Doctors are also quick to advise their patients that such products are "heavily processed," so they should be eaten sparingly and as part of a healthy diet.

Not all plant-based meat products are made from the same things, and some may use more or fewer additives depending on the desired taste and texture. Some products also have more natural ingredients than others.

According to the Good Food Institute, plant-based meat also gained momentum throughout the pandemic. Throughout 2020, plant-based meat sales increased and surpassed other traditional food markets.

However, recent data suggest that the growth of alternative meats may be decreasing. Food & Wine reports that vegan protein sales have been declining and are in trouble.

Also, it hasn't had the effect on the traditional meat market that some experts may have hoped for, and at least one well-known company in the industry just released some bad financial news.

For example, last year's first-quarter earnings from Beyond Meat have been disclosed, and the figures don't look good. The company had a net loss of $100.5 million, the same as a 91.8% drop in total revenue. Even though sales are going down, management is still optimistic. They say that working with PepsiCo was the right choice and that this short-term problem will be fixed soon.

Market confidence is also declining

Beyond Meat also lost sales last quarter in practically every channel. According to Bloomberg, the company has cut over 20% of its workforce over the past year, lost more than half of its C-suite, and stopped projects like vegan hot dogs and the newest alternative protein, cell-cultured meat.

Even though KFC, Pizza Hut, and, most importantly, McDonald's had said they would work with Beyond, none of them have added a single permanent item to their US menus.

As of Jan. 17, the price of Beyond's stock was hovering around $16, down about 76% from a year earlier and about 93% from its peak in the summer of 2019. This is even though an index of packaged-food businesses on the S&P 500 was up about 4% from a year ago.

Impossible is doing better, but its former CEO is out, replaced by a Chobani Inc. executive who took over as CEO after he resigned as CEO in April last year. He then took a leave of absence. Under its new CEO, Peter McGuinness, Impossible has released new products, like fake chicken nuggets in the shape of animals, and beaten-up retailers. This will lead to more than a 50% increase in retail sales in the US by 2022.

Even though it has added new restaurant partners, some of its long-term partners say that customer interest has peaked or declined.

So, has plant-based meat seen its popularity peak? We'll have to see if it turns out to be a fad.

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