There must be a reason Beyond Meat, one of the major players to emerge into the new-age vegan burger theatre, is going completely bananas.
Shares for the Californian company were trading some 500 per cent above their May initial-public-offering (£20) on Tuesday (now about £146).
The plant-based burger manufacturer, founded just ten years ago, is estimated to be worth about £9 billion.
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We know veganism is surging. Waitrose was right, people are choosing plant-based alternatives more and more – 2019 is the year.
Sandwich chains, restaurants, and supermarkets are all lapping up jackfruit and seitan with aplomb. Even McDonald’s is experimenting with meat-free food.
Which is why it might come as no surprise to learn that most of the “meat” consumed in 2040 will not come from slaughtered animals, but from plant-based and lab-grown products. At least that’s what a new report suggests.
The report, by global consultancy firm AT Kearney predicts 60 per cent of “meat” eaten in just over 20 years will be replaced by alternatives to traditional, animal-derived varieties.
Findings are based on expert interviews and underpin past studies which say people are more worried about the environmental impacts of conventional meat production than ever before.
There are concerns too about animal welfare and intensive industrial farming, as well as people’s diet and health.
AT Kearney partner Carsten Gerhardt said in the report: “The shift towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is undeniable, with many consumers cutting down on their meat consumption as a result of becoming more conscious towards the environment and animal welfare.
“For passionate meat-eaters, the predicted rise of cultured meat products means that they still get to enjoy the same diet they always have, but without the same environmental and animal cost attached.”
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AT Kearney said the global agriculture and meat industry faces “enormous challenges” in attempting to meet the growing global meat demand for meat, while trying to transform into a more sustainable production system, where emissions – and their adverse effect on the environment and the eco-system – are managed.
The firm said a devastating combination of factors are leading to people opting for plant-based foods.
As the amount of land we have available shrinks, populations grow and consumers become increasingly aware of the health issues caused by chemicals deployed in some intensive farming methods, many are turning to meat-free modern techniques.
“The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil,” the report said.
“With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share.”
Companies selling vegan foods are still minuscule compared to the meat industry, which turns over almost £800 billion every year. But they are growing rapidly.
As well as Beyond Meat are high-profile companies such as Impossible Foods – which now makes “bleeding” faux beef patties for Burger King, among other places – and Just Foods, perhaps best-known for its bean-based “egg” mix.
All use plant-based ingredients to recreate the texture, mouth feel, look and, sometimes, the taste of meats, eggs and other long-loved foods.
AT Kearney added: “These products have existed for several years and are mainly based on tofu, seitan, mushrooms, or jackfruit without any animal ingredients such as egg, gelatin, or milk.
“The main disadvantage of these classic vegan products is their sensory profile, which is unlike meat and thus these products don’t appeal to average consumers. Hence, they have historically been sold in a niche mainly to vegan and ethically motivated consumers.”
“The main reason for the improved sensory profile is a sophisticated production process with the use of hemoglobin and binders, extracted via fermentation from plants, which imitates the sensory profile of meat and even blood to complete the meat-like experience”
The report estimates 35 per cent of all meat will be cultured – essentially lab-grown – by 2040 and 25 per cent will be made from vegan replacements.
AT Kearney conceded the shift will be gradual and will not come without issues. It highlighted potential customer dissatisfaction in key meat markets such as the US, China, and India. However, it maintained that meat will one day fall flat.
“Cultured meat will win in the long run. However, novel vegan meat replacements will be essential in the transition phase.”