How Big Is The Market-Share For Alternative Meat?

The number of “Meat Analogue” launches worldwide increased from 100 in 2014, to 190 in 2018. Innova Market Insights® research revealed that the greatest market-driver for purchases of plant-based meat-alternatives (PBMAs) in 2018 was “personal health priorities” and in 2019 was “environmental concerns”. Despite promises they would enter commerce in 2019, cell-cultured meat-alternatives (CCMAs) are still much too expensive to compete in this category. 2 One of the PBMA manufacturers has been successful. Beyond Meat™ was founded in 2009; its portfolio of fresh and frozen plant-based proteins are currently sold at 58,000 retail and foodservice outlets worldwide; its net revenue for CY-2019 is expected to reach $275 million; and–after 11 years–was profitable for the first time in Q3-2019.

Nevertheless, the critics persist with statements like this: “Meat production chews up land and spews out methane by the kiloton, accounting for two-thirds of all GHG emissions from agriculture; to prevent global warming we need to be eating 75% less beef and 90% less pork globally.” We have a long way to go but–that’s okay–“Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming, and save the planet.” 4 RethinkX® envisages an extremely rapid “death spiral” in the livestock industry with “precision fermentation” resulting in US dairy production being all but bankrupt by 2030 and American beef industry’s revenues falling 90% by 2035.4

Perhaps; but where are we now? We seem to have lost the battle on the “personal health” front. A recent consumer survey determined that 44% of respondents believe that PBMAs are lower in sodium (they actually are 220% to 620% higher in sodium), 34% believe PBMAs are less processed (they actually are “ultra-processed”) and >50% believe PBMAs are “better-for-my-health” (while they are decidedly less healthful) than genuine meat. 5 Dynata™ reported that 56% of survey respondents are “very likely” or “likely” to decrease meat consumption, and that “personal health” was the Number 1 reason even though research shows that the nutrition in PBMAs is typically not better than the meat it replaces. Power Of Meat 2019 revealed that 36% of people do not think genuine meat has a role in a healthy and balanced diet, 7 and that 50% of consumers who regularly purchase PBMAs do so because they believe PBMAs are “healthy”. 8

And, the upward trajectory of market penetration by PBMAs seemed steep. By early 2016, Gardein™, Beyond Meat™, and Impossible Foods™ had PBMA in tens of thousands of supermarkets, restaurants, and hotel/restaurant/institution locations. 2 By 2020, more than 100 thousand fast-food outlets were offering plant-based meat. 9 Customers ordered 228 million servings of veggie burgers and sandwiches at Quick Service Restaurants from April 2018 to May 2019, but real beef burgers were still more popular–by far–with 64 billion ordered in the same time-frame. 10 That constitutes a 96.6% to 3.4% market-share split. Impossible Foods™ gloated about 2019, calling it the “Year Of Firsts” inasmuch as its company: (a) tripled its restaurant footprint to >15,000 locations across the globe, (b) landed in grocery stores for the first time, and (c) launched the Impossible Whopper® with Burger King™. 11 It claimed, “By eating Impossible Burger®, you helped reduce animal meat’s land footprint by the equivalent of Yosemite National Park; you helped reduce the greenhouse gas footprint by the equivalent of 40,000 cars; and you showed there’s hope for our planet.” 11 What it didn’t do was decrease consumption of genuine meat.

Early estimates were that PBMAs plus CCMAs would achieve 2% “meat” market-share, by the year 2021 in the US 12 ; 6.6% of the global market, eventually 13 , and no more than 10% in the US, ever 14 . A number of agricultural economists predicted that the “ceiling” market-share of PBMA patties would be at 10% of burgers sold by QSRs; the test market for Burger King’s™ Impossible Whopper® resulted in a 10.7% market-share “but the initial buzz around that menu has since died down. 15 Global sales of genuine meat in 2019 was $1,700 billion while that for alternative meat was $2.2 billion. 16 That’s an 0.13% market-share; not much progress for creating a vegan world. Radical Insights® valued the global meat-substitute market at $3.34 billion, a mere fraction (0.49%) of the global genuine-meat market of $675 billion per year. 17

Four reports of PBMA market-share were published in 2019 and 2020. The PBMA market is growing but is still only a fraction of 1% of the overall “meat” market. 18 Genuine beef burgers had a market-share in QSR sales during FY-2019 of 97% while PBMA burgers had a market-share of 3%. 19 Real beef maintained 99% of the retail market (supermarkets and foodservice operations) vs. only 0.5% was meat substitutes. 20 Meanwhile, real beef consumption continues to grow, and even consumers who sometimes choose to buy PBMAs continue to eat real beef as often as they always have. 20 US retail sales of all plant-based foods rose 11.4% in 2019 to $5 billion now; of the total, PBMA sales were up 18% in 2019 to $939 million. 21 Plant-based meat now accounts for 2% of retail-packaged meat sales. 21

There are at least six reasons PBMAs are not gaining market-share. First, despite the hoopla, genuine meat and poultry remain very popular. The average US consumer ate 216.9 lb of it in 2017, 222.4 lb in 2018, 223.7 lb in 2019, and are projected to eat 225.6 in 2020. 22 , 23 And, two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, year-over-year genuine meat/poultry sales were up 51.3% (as of May 3, 2020). 24 Plant-based proteins are in the headlines and getting all the love these days but NPD Group® says 14% of US consumers regularly use plant-based protein in their diets while 86% rely primarily on animal proteins instead. 25 Second, the price of the Impossible Whopper® is $1 higher than that of the Impossible Burger® so that’s $4 per lb more for the PBMA patty; Beyond Beef® at Aldi™, HEB™, and Kroger™ supermarkets in Texas over the period of June 2019 to July 2020 ranged from $8.98 to $11.98 per lb while conventional ground beef at the same fat level ranged from $3.48 to $3.99. Nielsen Product Insider® reported that the cost at retail for one gram of protein from a PBMA was twice that for milk, 2.5 times that for beef, and 5 times that for chicken, pork, or turkey. 26

Third, most consumers presently purchasing PBMAs aren’t vegans or vegetarians; they’re “flexitarians”–consumers who don’t want to stop eating meat, just reduce consumption of it. 27 Flexitarians want protein in their diet but are driven away from eating meat, based on concerns about animal welfare, sustainability, and personal health. 28 And they are fickle. Fourth, PBMAs don’t fit the “Clean Label” paradigm. The biggest problem that PBMAs have is that they are “ultra-processed” foods (because they contain 20 to 30 ingredients). 29  And, both Impossible Burger® and Beyond Burger® keep adding more ingredients than earlier versions of their veggie burgers, trying to improve their taste, texture, and juiciness. 30 Fifth, PBMAs remain a “one-trick pony”; they’re entering only the ground-product space (about half of meat sales) with no imitation steaks or roasts. Until they do so, there is no way they can eliminate the need for animals. Sixth, PBMAs still face a plethora of shortcomings. PBMAs will use “virtue signaling” and “guilting about the ethics of eating meat” to convince consumers to adopt a meat-less diet yet 9 in 10 Americans don’t consider plants an acceptable substitute for meat. 31 Five key issues that PBMA should address are taste, nutrition, Clean Label, protein source, and variety. 32 Things PBMA are still trying to replicate are taste, physical functionality, nutrient content (especially protein quality and collagen content), texture, mouth-feel, and the vegetal, grassy, and off-flavored odor of plants. 33

And, while they’ve not yet entered commerce, CCMA’s Achilles heel is the “ick factor” of growing stem cells bathed in fetal blood serum. 34



Innova Market Insights. 2020. January 28 Issue.

2 Smith, Gary. 2020. Texas A&M University. January 20 Issue.

3 Thompson, Clive. 2018. Science. December 17 Issue.

4 Monbiot, George. 2020. The Guardian. January 8 Issue.

5 Angus Beef Bulletin Extra. 2020. February 20 Issue.

6 Meatingplace. 2020. February Edition.

7 Thompson-Weeman, Hannah. 2020. Animal Agriculture Alliance. March 10 Issue.

8 Roerink, Anne-Marie. 2020. Meat + Poultry. March 18 Issue.

9 Emmett, Julie. 2020. Food Quality & Safety. May Edition.

10 NPD Group. 2020. Food Quality & Safety. May Edition.

11 Impossible Foods. 2020. Press Release. January 2 Issue.

12 Browne, Michael. 2018. Supermarket News. July Edition.

13 Bennett, Chris. 2018. Drovers. August 13 Issue.

14 Ozimek, Adam. 2018. Moody’s Analytics®. August Edition.

15 Lucas, Amelia. 2020. CNBC. January 14 Issue.

16 James, Katie. 2019. Drovers. December Edition.

17 Gabbett, Rita Jane. 2016. Meatingplace. March 16 Issue.

18 Demetrakakas, Pan. 2019. Food Processing. July Edition.

19 Shaffer, Erica. 2019. Meat + Poultry. July 17 Issue.

20 Harrison, Alisa. 2019. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. July 31 Issue.

21 Valigra, Lori. 2020. Food Quality & Safety. May Edition.

22 Schierhorn, Carolyn. 2019. Food Processing. December Edition.

23 Gallup Consulting Company. 2020. February 20 Issue.

24 Roerink, Anne-Marie. 2020. Meatingplace. May 11 Issue.

25 Avis, Ed. 2020. Food Processing. January Edition.

26 Meatingplace. 2019. September Edition.

27 Seifer, Darren. 2019. NPD Group. July 15 Issue.

28 Nunes, Keith. 2019. Meat + Poultry. June 18 Issue.

29 Donnan, Dave. 2020. Food Technology. March Edition.

30 Ervin, David. 2020. Food Quality & Safety. May Edition.

31 Radke, Amanda. 2020. BEEF. February 19 Issue.

32 Gelski, Jeff. 2019. Meat + Poultry. November 20 Issue.

33 Caputo, Philip. 2020. Food Processing. April Edition.

34 Radke, Amanda. 2019. BEEF. May 10 Issue.

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