By Contributing Author
Humanity really has a taste for meat – aside from it being a great source of protein, it is also delicious. Humanity consumes, on average, more than 300 million tons of meat each year – and this is expected to rise by almost half in the coming years. This, unfortunately, is bad news for the environment. Even if we don’t count the greenhouse gas emissions of the meat and dairy industry, the production of meat consumes huge quantities of plant material (as feed) and huge quantities of water. Meat is a pretty inefficient food – vegans and meat-eaters, scientists and activists agree about this – but our taste for it grows year after year. There are, of course, alternative protein sources that we can resort to – soybeans and tofu, fungi, and similar products have been used for ages, even as “meat analogs”. These, in turn, have so far failed to provide meat-eaters with an experience that could convince them to forget about steaks and burgers. In recent years, though, several startups have presented their take on this matter.
Going beyond meat
The secret to convincing meat-eaters to switch to a plant-based alternative seems to be the simulating their favourite dishes, giving them the same taste, texture, and smell. This is what the California-based startup “Beyond Meat” has been working on since 2009. After three years of work behind closed doors, the company presented its first plant protein-based products in 2012, and in 2013, it “invaded” the shelves of the “Whole Foods” supermarket chain, to great success. Its popularity has continued to grow, with some of the biggest food and beverage companies investing in it – think Tyson Foods, for example, that bought a 5% share in Beyond Meat in 2016. The company went public in 2019, and its shares (NASDAQ: BYND) continue to rise to this day. Beyond Meat has signed several important partnerships over the years. It has recently completed a trial run with MacDonalds, it is rumoured to enter a similar agreement with Starbucks, and its products will soon show up on the shelves of the major US wholesale group Costco.
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Not just fast food
Another area where plant-based protein is looking to capture a serious market share is that of the baby formulas. A Tel-Aviv based startup called Else Nutrition (TSX-V: BABY) has its eyes on this one: it plans to launch a line of 100% plant-based, non-dairy, non-soy, hormone-free, gluten-free, non-GMO baby products. The company plans to attack the market – currently dominated by milk protein as the go-to ingredient – head-on with its products, infant formulas as close to the gold standard composition of breast milk as possible.
At the same time, some of the biggest names in food production are eager to jump the plant-based protein bandwagon. No wonder – the market is in for a massive surge in the coming years. Bloomberg expects the plant-based meat market alone to grow by double digits in the coming years, reaching a total value of more than $36 billion by 2026.