Desire for a healthier diet and concern about climate change are driving consumer interest in plant-based foods, according to new research from Euromonitor International. Enhanced focus on animal welfare, farmers, society and workers is also playing a role, the global market research company said in a release.
Euromonitor said 24% of global consumers want to reduce their meat consumption, leading plant-based alternatives to hit $19.5 billion in sales last year. And, according to the group's lifestyles survey, nearly 42% said climate change will increasingly affect their lives from this year through 2024.
Still, the conventional meat industry is projected to climb at a faster rate by 2023 because the cost and availability of alternatives are holding back the global market, Euromonitor said. The group's webinar on the topic is available online.
With plant-based protein all the rage right now, consumers seem to have acquired an insatiable appetite for meat alternatives. However, this growth may not be sustainable unless there's a sufficient supply of pea protein — a common ingredient in many plant-based items such as the popular Beyond Burger.
That popularity was underscored earlier this month when California-based Beyond Meat became the first plant-based food manufacturer to go public on a major exchange. The company's stock, which was priced at $25 a share, closed up 163% to $65.75 on its first day — a performance expected more often from a tech company than a food one.
As makers of faux beef, chicken, seafood and dairy substitutes look to legume-based protein for their formulations, the question now is whether there will be enough pea protein to fuel this market growth.
Besides the Beyond Burger, other plant-based products using pea protein include the Lightlife Burger from Canada's Maple Leaf Foods, which also uses the protein in its ground meat, bratwurst and Italian sausage products. Ripple Foods' dairy alternatives and Good Catch Foods' fake tuna also rely on pea protein, as do a variety of protein powders, baked goods and smoothies.
Other meat alternatives — including the Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods and the soon-to-come Incredible Burger from Nestlé's Garden Gourmet brand — contain soy and wheat protein, so consumers wanting to avoid those ingredients for allergies or other reasons are more likely to stick with pea-based products.
Ingredient suppliers are stepping up to meet this demand for pea protein. Cargill makes an organic and non-GMO pea protein ingredient line called PURIS, while DuPont Nutrition & Health has introduced non-GMO Trupro Nuggets containing 70% pea protein.
The U.S. currently makes up the majority of the North American pea protein market, Research and Markets reported. The market value — estimated at $8.3 million in 2018 — is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.5% through 2024. Canada is likely to take over as production leader worldwide, according to Bloomberg. Global sales of the protein could quadruple by 2025, thanks to plant-based meat substitutes.
Food manufacturers may look into other plant-based protein sources to bolster their products should the price or supply of pea protein become unworkable. Soy protein will likely be cheaper because production is subsidized in the U.S., and soy also contains all amino acids. Prices have fallen lately as the trade war with China has heated up, driving soybean futures to their lowest level in 10 years.
There are drawbacks with this ingredient. Soybeans are one of the Food and Drug Administration's eight major allergens. Soy has also been associated with health problems, and soybeans are often GMO. FDA is also considering revoking soy's heart-healthy labeling claim, posing a consumer marketing challenge.
Other plant-based protein options include almonds, which are more costly to grow due to water and pollination requirements. California's production is forecast to be 9.6% higher this year, with bearing acreage hitting a record high of 1.17 million acres statewide.
Almond prices have also been hit by trade disputes and fell 14% last year after retaliatory tariffs from India, China and Turkey hit back against the Trump administration's metal import duties. However, the U.S. has few global competitors for almonds, since it grows nearly 80% of the supply and provides about 70% of total exports.