man eating burger

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: A Market Snapshot

The plant-based meat category is experiencing rapid growth in recent years. The Good Foods Institute (GFI) estimated in 2020 that the retail sales of plant-based meats was $1.4 billion, with 45% retail dollar growth from the previous year.1

The plant-based meat category is nothing new to major food companies like Kellogg’s and Kraft Heinz, manufacturers of MorningStar Farms and Boca Burger, respectively. But what is new is the recent surge in interest and funding, as well as the realization that plant-based meats are more mainstream. Even meat companies are getting in on the action, with Tyson Foods' investment in Beyond Meat and their announcement to reformulate their Raised & Rooted brand products to be 100% plant-based. Interest isn’t limited to North America either. According to the GFI State of the Industry report2:

  • Baicaowei, the Chinese-snack company owned by PepsiCo, launched its plant-based sausage snack, highlighting China’s growing interest in plant-based meat. 
  • Planterra Foods, a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS, the world’s largest meat company, launched its Ozo brand of plant-based meat products.

Types of Plant-Based Meats

Plant-based meats encompass meat analogues made from legumes, grains, vegetables, mushrooms, fermented biomaterials or plant-based protein concentrates. Though meat-free, some may include small amounts of animal protein, such as egg white, for functionality like binding. They typically aim to mimic multiple aspects of meat, such as appearance, texture, and taste.

A wide variety of forms are available, including burgers/patties, meatballs, crumbles, hot dogs/sausages, strips, cutlets/tenders, nuggets, deli slices, and even holiday roasts. Plant-based meats can mimic beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and some seafood and can be found in both the refrigerated and frozen foods sections. They are also used in frozen meals, such as meatless lasagnas and burritos, usually as crumbles.

chicken nuggets

Key Trend Drivers and Challenges

While the increasing popularity of flexitarian and reducetarian diets is contributing to the growth of plant-based meats, so too is the ever-present consumer desire for new and delicious foods. According to a 2020 primary research study by Glanbia Nutritionals, 73% of consumers surveyed indicated they use or are willing to try plant-based meat alternatives.3 Reasons for purchase by those consumers include:

  • 32% indicate that ‘eating plant-based products makes me feel healthier’ 
  • 31% believe ‘they are healthier than animal proteins’

Reasons consumers may not be interested in trying plant-based meat alternatives include: products are not within budget (37%), perception they do not taste good (33%), and lack of knowledge on how to prepare plant-based meat alternatives (30%). The study also found there are a few tactics that may go a long was in convincing those to try including: in-store sampling before purchase (48%), coupon or promotional pricing (40%), or receiving a suggestion from a friend of family member (30%).4 

Plant Proteins

Plant-based meats are typically based on one or more types of plant protein, such as:

  • Soybeans – As soy protein isolate or concentrate, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, or tempeh
  • Wheat – As wheat gluten (seitan) or textured wheat protein
  • Peas – As pea protein isolate or concentrate
  • Mushrooms – As mycoprotein 

Additional ingredients important in plant-based meats are: 

  • Binders – Konjac gum, guar gum, acacia gum, methylcellulose, or egg whites
  • Flavorings – Natural flavors, nutritional yeast, or spices
  • Vitamins – Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
  • Minerals – Iron and zinc
cookies

Manufacturers Respond to Demand

Manufacturers are addressing this trend in several ways, ranging from expanding distribution, product offerings and striving for price parity with animal-based meats. Innovations include:

  • Beyond Meat – One of the leading meat alternative brands, Beyond Meat, expanded their product line to frozen breakfast sausage patties. In an effort to overcome price challenges by consumers, they offered their Cookout Classic 10-burger value pack retailed for $6.40 per pound. At the time of the announcement, beef patties were sold at $5.26 per pound.5
  • Impossible Foods –In 2020, they cut their price by an average of 15% for foodservice distributors. They also focused on distribution expansion announcing that both Trader Joe’s and Walmart would start to sell the Impossible Burger.6
  • Top Tier Foods, a Canadian company, announced it would launch a plant-based Wagyu beef in Japan. 
  • Plant-based chicken nugget alternatives were all the rage this year with both Rebellyous Foods and Field Roast launched plant-based nuggets. 
  • Leading plant-based seafood company, Good Catch, debuted plant-based crab cakes, fish cakes and fish burgers into US retail outlets with plans to expand into Europe. 

Meeting Consumer Needs

To meet consumer demand for healthy products, manufacturers must pay careful attention to the nutritional profile of their plant-based meat products, including protein, fat, vitamin, and mineral content. 

Our research indicated that two out of three US consumers are willing to pay at least 5% more with clean label attribute. Those include7:

  • No artificial colors or flavors (34%)
  • Limited number of ingredients on the ingredient list (28%)
  • Non-GMO (28%)
  • Knowledge of ingredients (28%)
  • Preservative free (285)

Glanbia Nutritionals is pleased to announce the launch of Simpleat™ Plant-based Meat Solutions, the future of clean label plant-based meat alternatives. The Simpleat portfolio offers three solutions including:  

  • Simpleat Crumble is fully cooked and available frozen/refrigerated and offers a comparable texture to ground meat.  
  • Simpleat EZStrips are fully cooked and are a shelf stable plant-based solution that offers an enjoyable bite. 
  • Simpleat Tender is a versatile, easy-to-use powder used to make our Crumble and EZStrips, and it can be used to make plant-based meat products.

Get in touch to explore the limitless possibilities with Simpleat. 


References

1-2. The Good Foods Institute. (2020). State of the Industry Report: Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy. Retrieved from https://gfi.org/resource/plant-based-meat-eggs-and-dairy-state-of-the-industry-report/  
3-4. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Research, U.S. Plant-Based Meat Consumer Survey, January 2020. 
5-6. The Good Foods Institute. (2020). State of the Industry Report: Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy. Retrieved from https://gfi.org/resource/plant-based-meat-eggs-and-dairy-state-of-the-industry-report/  
7. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Research, U.S. Plant-Based Meat Consumer Survey, January 2020. 

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