Corporate Engagement

Plant-based meat alternatives – a new, dynamic market sector

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Plant-based meats have now become permanent fixtures on supermarket shelves, with the sector continuing to develop and grow dynamically. As the sector becomes more competitive, meat substitutes will become increasingly tastier, more accessible, and more appealing to consumers, which includes not only vegans and vegetarians but the full range of consumers. Given that these products are particularly popular with younger people, we can continue to expect further growth in the future. ProVeg Poland’s Marcin Tischner answers some commonly asked questions about plant-based meat alternatives.

The full article was published in Polish and is available in the Rzeźnik Polski magazin. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Who are the consumers of plant-based meat substitutes?

It would be easy to assume that it is only or mainly vegans and vegetarians who are purchasing and consuming these products. In fact, the number of people consuming plant-based meat substitutes is much higher than the number of vegans and vegetarians,  who only account for a small percentage of consumers. Market research by Roślinniejemy and Ariadna shows that almost one in five Poles had consumed plant-based meat substitutes in the month prior to the research being conducted. This indicates that a significant group of purchasers are meat consumers who want to occasionally try something new. For this reason, I strongly advise against targeting plant-based products only at vegans and vegetarians, since a broader group of consumers are already purchasing these products.

What is the size of the market for plant-based goods?

From a global perspective, the plant-based sector is growing very dynamically. Unfortunately, we have relatively little information about the consumption of plant-based meat substitutes in Poland. Looking at the market in the US, we can see that these products  already constitute about 1% of total meat-sector sales. At the same time, plant-based milk substitutes in the US have already reached 14% of the total milk sector. It is worth noting that plant-based beverages started appearing on mainstream supermarket shelves about 12 years ago, while meat substitutes have only just started impacting on mainstream consumption habits. If plant-based meat substitutes follow the same path as milk substitutes, the value of this sector in the USA may soon increase by several billion dollars.

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How is the market for plant-based meat substitutes doing in other countries?

The American company Beyond Meat became a revelation on Wall Street last year, achieving the best stock market debut in the last 20 years. I am convinced that, paradoxically, the biggest beneficiaries of the expansion of the plant-based sector will be meat companies. A great example is the German meat company Rügenwalder Mühle, which has been operating for five generations and which entered the meat-alternatives sector in 2015. The decision to introduce plant-based meats to their product range was undertaken with a view to future-proofing the company. Since meat consumption in Germany is gradually falling, it was thought that the market for plant-based substitutes could provide a great opportunity for production diversification and reaching a larger group of consumers. Indeed, its plant-based meat substitutes have been embraced by the market and are growing from year to year as a percentage of total sales, reaching over 30% in 2019, with plans to increase this to about 40% in 2020. This clearly represents a significant transition for a traditional meat manufacturer and offers a best-practice model for similar companies.

There are many consumers who like the taste of meat, but, whether for ideological, health, or social reasons, are interested in plant-based meat substitutes.

Marcin Tischner, Corporate Engagement Specialist, ProVeg Poland

And what is the situation in the Polish domestic market?

In Poland, we can see similar decisions being made. Meat companies have started to introduce both plant-based meat replacements and complete lines of ready-made plant-based dishes. We also have an interesting group of producers that are 100% plant-based. We expect that these kinds of products will appear on our tables with increasing frequency and regularity. 

 

What should be taken into account when offering such products to consumers?

We encourage manufacturers to pay attention to the composition of their product. As well as being plant-based, such products should also be healthy. After all, one of the reasons why consumers are shifting towards plant-based meat substitutes is for health – so large amounts of sugar, palm oil, and additives may discourage them. Communication is also a key aspect of things. At the moment, when companies – and especially meat companies –  launch their product on the market, there are always questions as to whether there is no meat in it, whether cross-contamination has occurred, and whether these products are definitely 100% plant-based. So, you need to be ready to answer a lot of questions about the composition of products, as well as what plans the company might have when it comes to developing additional plant-based products. Vegans and vegetarians are generally a disciplined community, with every new plant-based innovation getting a lot of attention. It is also worth starting with a single pilot product. We recommend getting gradually accustomed to the market for plant-based substitutes, which includes getting to know consumers better, building a dialogue with them, and gradually developing a product line in consultation with regionally targeted audiences.

 

Are plant-based meat substitutes an opportunity or a threat?

There are many consumers who like the taste of meat, but, whether for ideological, health, or social reasons, are interested in plant-based meat substitutes. I am convinced that plant-based products can be a valuable addition to the portfolio of every meat company. Of course, I realise that some meat companies will see such developments as a threat, but it’s encouraging that many of them see it as an opportunity. Which makes sense, since the prospects for the growth of the plant-based sector look so promising.

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