The vegetarian meat industry is on the rise, but challenges remain

A visitor tries an alternative plant-based meat product at the Gourmet Asia Restaurant, Bar and Gallery at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020.

Peter Parks | Agence France-Presse | Getty Images

Analysts said that the demand for meat alternatives has grown and will continue to rise, but the industry still faces hurdles that must be overcome in different parts of the world.

Global interest in searching for the term “vegan meat” surged in early 2019 months before the initial public offering of Beyond Meat, according to Google Trends.

The global meat substitute sector is valued at $ 20.7 billion and is set to grow to $ 23.2 billion by 2024, market research firm Euromonitor told CNBC.

This growth is driven by concerns ranging from animal welfare to food security and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In an era of shocks and instability, building a low-risk value chain means focusing on opportunities, and the shift toward vegan meat shows no signs of slowing down,” said Eileen Siu, managing director of The Good Food. Asia Pacific Institute.

However, hurdles remain to a thriving market.

Cultural barriers

Seo said the vegetarian meat market in Asia may be limited due to entrenched perception issues.

For example, phantom meat or vegetarian meat was previously eaten mainly by followers of Buddhism in China.

“The repeatability of the taste and texture of the meat has never exceeded the relatively basic level,” she said, adding that these traditional products serve a specific purpose and “their attractiveness is seen as limited” to certain groups.

“For vegan meat to reach its full market potential in Asia, the sector must continue to break free from its association with traditional phantom meats, which are expected to be sold at a low price and carry historical images.” Seo said.

Objections from the traditional meat industry

A herd of cows gather in the shade of an old barn on May 4, 2020 in Owings, Maryland.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“Existing producers will be pressing their governments hard to change labels, to manipulate consumer ads to say you can’t call it meat,” Powell told CNBC via Zoom. “I think this is probably one of the biggest obstacles.”

The The European Union rejected the proposals in October To prohibit restaurants and shops from using words like hot dogs or burgers when describing meat alternatives.

Consumer confidence, consumer fatigue

Powell added that if any vegetarian meat company experiences a “type of accident” or a problem with its recipe leading to a “huge drawdown”, customers may be afraid to eat these alternatives.

“That’s a big if” he said, “but if they have to withdraw a big product, it could weaken consumer confidence.” “At some point, you’ll get these events. That will bring the industry back a little bit.”

Separately, Powell said that the “Instagrammability” of plant foods is one of the reasons for the growth of the market “everywhere in the world”. Market growth could be hampered, he said, if the novelty of meat alternatives faded away or faded away.

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Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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