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KANSAS CITY — Plant-based meat substitutes have surged over the last three years, and the meat mimicry shows no signs of slowing down. The global meat alternative market was valued at $4.1 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $8.1 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.

“Increase in incidence of health disorders such as lifestyle diseases and rise in health consciousness among consumers have augmented the adoption of vegan food products across the world,” said Shankar Bhandalkar, team lead of food and beverage research at Allied Market Research. “According to our study, about 30% of Americans are not only eliminating meat from the diet but are also shifting their preference toward the consumption of plant-based meat alternatives. Thus, all these factors collectively contribute toward the growth of the global meat substitute market.”

In the United States, the segment is now worth $939 million, growing 38% since 2017, according to The Good Food Institute. Plant-based meat now accounts for 2% of all dollar sales for retail packaged meat and approximately 1% of all dollar sales for total retail meat, even though only 5% of American consumers claim to be vegetarian or vegan. Regardless, 54% of Americans want to reduce their meat intake, according to market research company IDTechEx, with most citing health, environmental impact and the ethics of the meat industry as their motivation.

“Plant-based meat is finally shaking off its reputation as a poor imitation of the real thing,” said Michael Dent, PhD, technology analyst at market research company IDTechEx. “Rather than just targeting vegetarians, plant-based analogue producers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are targeting the 95% of consumers who eat meat. These consumers are less likely to compromise on quality for ethical reasons than vegetarians. As such, there is a serious R&D focus on product quality and exact replication of meat, something that was less of a focus in previous generations of meat substitutes. This has helped contribute to the explosion in sales of plant-based meat products and will likely continue into 2020.”

“Plant-based meat is finally shaking off its reputation as a poor imitation of the real thing,” — Michael Dent, IDTechEx

Beyond retail, the interest in meat alternatives also has benefited from partnerships with fast-food providers. For example, in an August 2019 trial run at KFC stores in Atlanta, Beyond Meat’s trial chicken analogue sold out in six hours.

“Products like the Impossible Whopper in Burger King gave consumers the ability to try plant-based meat without having to commit to buying a full pack in a store,” Dr. Dent said. “Consumers love customization in fast food, and plant-based products are viewed as a healthy alternative that lets them continue to enjoy their favorite fast-food products. 2020 will likely see fast-food stores expand their plant-based meat options, further improving the consumer exposure of the products.”


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