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Retailers and the Meteoric Rise of ‘Meatless Choices’

July 24, 2019

How can retailers maximize the power of the new plant-protein category?

Motivated by both environmental impacts and dietary health concerns, consumers are seeking more plant-based ‘meatless’ choices when it comes to protein.

A Global Data study in a 2018 Forbes article states that 70% of the global population is consciously reducing their meat intake. Further, in the past 3 years in the U.S, there has been a 600% rise in people identifying as vegetarians. In Britain, the number of self-declaring vegans has tripled in the same time frame, and another 25% of current meat eaters expect to eat less meat in the future.

Consumers are seeking meatless choices for several reasons: older consumers are motivated for health reasons, but younger consumers are motivated by environmental impacts and concerns about the treatment of animals. Some may be taking the meat out of their diet completely, but most want the flexibility to just make more ‘meatless’ choices when it suits them.

New high-quality ‘meatless’ or plant-based meat-like proteins are now appearing everywhere. They aspire to be, both in taste and texture, viable meat substitutes. Beyond Meat’s burger, called the Beyond Burger, provides the ‘bite’ of a hearty burger, and even ‘bleeds’ like real beef— it’s the same emotional eating experience as meat.

Plant-based products represent an exciting new category in the supermarket. In 2018, according to Nielsen data, American retail sales of plant-based “meats” grew by 24% compared to a 2% growth for meat. We are starting to see a lot of tasty innovation in the meatless space. There are many deep-pocket investors in the category, like Bill Gates investor of Beyond Meat, and Richard Branson, investor of Memphis Meats. In a recent blog post, Branson wrote: “In 30 years or so… I think in the future… clean and plant-based meat will become the norm, and … it is unlikely that animals will need to be killed for food.”

Whether Branson’s prophecy comes true or not, it may be time to rethink the way store retail departments are organized. Food retailers should see this as a growth category. To capture these sales, meatless products can be merchandised both in the meat section and other refrigerated areas as they will most likely require an appropriate amount of space for volume and variety.




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