A surge in growth for alternative meat products will create a market worth $140bn over the next 10 years, Barclays said.
New start-ups could square off against Tyson Foods, JBS and Pilgrim Pride to innovate foodstuffs based on plant or lab-based meat substitutes, usually derived from soy or wheat.
However, although Barclays believes alternative protein products could capture up to 10% of the $1,400bn global meat market, it says there are significant barriers to consumers shifting from traditional meats – providing some security for existing producers.
The report says: "Although today we believe that there are inherent barriers to successfully replicating certain animal-based consumer favourites, what has been achieved so far has yielded positive initial reaction, which should bode well for the alternative meat sector to grab its fair share of the global meat market."
"The march of the meat-eating Chinese"
Global demand for meat is expected to grow over the decade, driven by a rise in population in Asian countries as well as an appetite for meat-based diets - or as Barclays says led by “the march of the meat-eating Chinese”.
The alternative meat market, although well-established, is predicted to expand on the back of concerns over animal welfare, environmental concerns, such as climate change, and health.
Barclays explain consumers are concerned by “the risk of inhuman practices” to livestock as a result of the need to expand operations to meet rising demand.
People also identify with livestock and carbon emissions and the impact of eating meat on their health, it says.
The key players
Key players in the market are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods – which has the motto “to save meat and earth” - both of which have led the field in terms of driving up the profile of meat-free burgers and sausages.
However, companies such as Tyson Foods, Kraft Heinz and Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms – which has pledged to have its entire portfolio converted to plant-based alternatives by 2021 - are all investing to cater for consumer demand.
Convenience foods should also provide further new product opportunities. “The increasing demand of on-the go snacks could be one of the drivers of alternative meat products if they achieve a proper marketing strategy.”
Obstacles to growth
However, the report highlights the obstacles which will limit both the market exposure and help protect existing meat producers across poultry, beef and pork sectors.
“I didn’t claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables,” says the report, noting the view of Western culture to view meat consumption as related to economic progress.
Cost of alternative meat products is also likely to present an “upward hill” to the market.
“Consumers don’t buy all the foods they want because of budget constraints… and usually purchase less healthy food options than they would otherwise.”
Furthermore, the report notes there will be continued demand for certain unprocessed meat products that account for 40% of the market.
“It will likely be too complicated and costly to replicate plants with a T-bone steak.”
Taste remains key
However, taste will remain the single most important factor when buying a product.
“We see a tough wall for alternative meats to become better received in consumers’ plates.
“They rely on taste, price and healthiness.”
The report comes almost a month after the flotation of Beyond Meat - which makes plant-based burgers, sausages and crumbles and currently has a stock price of $77.63 - and just before the start of the Memorial Day weekend. This event usually marks the start of the US barbecue season.