In light of macro trends such as personal health and environmental sustainability, the growing acceptance of plant-based meats should come as no surprise. With improved taste and availability, meat lovers have more options to consider than ever before. In 2018, online sales of plant-based meats rose 40% to nearly $22M as online grocers adapted to shifting consumer preferences.
Although veggie burgers have been in the marketplace for years, a new wave of meat substitutes targeting meat eaters, rather than vegetarians and vegans, may finally succeed in tempting leary consumers to give them a try.
While longtime industry leaders Morningstar Farms and Gardein, owned by CPG titans Kellogg’s and ConAgra respectively, generated a majority of the sales and accounted for a combined 69% share online, new entrants are emerging, grabbing headlines and sales. Brands such as Beyond Meat promise the same texture, smell, and appearance as a real burger and even “bleed” when cooked. Online sales of Beyond Meat’s “Beyond Burger” doubled in both 2017 and 2018, making it the third most popular meat substitute brand with a 6.7% market share.
Online retailers have become a refuge for alternative meat buyers as limited shelf space in physical stores tends to reduce the selection of specialty products that buyers are searching for. Instacart, in particular, has succeeded in capitalizing on this trend and commands 38% of online alternative meat sales, followed by Walmart.com at 20%, Amazon at 12%, and Peapod at 8%.
Can alternative meats keep up the momentum or are they just a passing fad? New meat alternatives are on average a dollar more expensive than regular veggie burgers, which already have a higher price tag than regular beef patties. Alternative meat producers will need to keep their prices competitive, offer a wide variety of products, as well as expand their online marketing to stay relevant across multiple consumer groups.
Despite the obstacles of an industry rapidly growing and changing, it’s clear that the food of tomorrow is here today.