While demand for beef and other meats continues to surge, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the emerging alternative-protein segment. The food industry has moved toward offering more plant-based options in their product lines.
For example, Jensen Meat Co., a San Diego-based processor of ground beef, is currently expanding both its facilities and its team to manage co-packing opportunities for plant-based beef alternatives. Its new processing facility, to be completed by April 2021, will include bulk and patty forming for foodservice and retail finished products.
Among its alternative protein trends for 2021, The Good Food Institute (GFI) mentions that plant-based meat snacks could be a sizable opportunity. According to the organization, conventional meat snacks are a $2.8 billion category in the United States, split 50/50 between jerky and other formats. Plant-based meat snacks could tap into snacking and high-protein trends.
Washington D.C.-based GFI also says to keep an eye out for different plant protein sources this year. Key emerging ones include sunflower, mung bean, potato, rice, duckweed, chickpea, navy bean, oat and fungi.
Alternative-protein products are still a relatively small segment of sales compared with the traditional meat category, however.
“When looking at plant-based meat alternative sales, they represent 0.6% of total meat department dollar sales and 0.3% of volume sales,” says Anne-Marie Roerink, president of San Antonio, Texas-based 210 Analytics. “But absolutely, they have seen robust growth in 2020, upwards of 80%. The thing about alternatives is that it doesn’t replace the meat purchase; it’s just one of the protein choices for most people. There is a very small segment that drives the majority of these purchases, and most others buy it once or twice a year. So it’s not a matter of meat versus alternatives, but for most consumers, it is meat and alternatives.”
Further, according to Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts, it’s younger American consumers, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 44, who are the most likely to eat plant-based meat and who account for the majority of plant-based meat consumers.
As plant-based meat alternatives’ integration continues amid the pandemic, Roerink points out that they’re not a threat to meat sales, but an opportunity to engage with younger shoppers in the meat case.