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Issue #11: Meat alternatives are having a moment during the pandemic



June 1 · Issue #11 · View online

Dedicated to curating tech products and startups solving the world's most pressing problems, including climate change, pollution, and sustainability.

Retail sales of plant-based food are taking off during the coronavirus pandemic. Substitution meat sales soared in mid-March, increased by nearly 280% compared with the same time last year, and have outpaced conventional meat sales in the US.
Although it still only represents a small portion of the total global food market, it’s clear the pandemic has created greater awareness around the public health challenges of our current food systems. For many consumers, the crisis has encouraged a new-product discovery in this category. In the long term, the pandemic may have a more unanticipated positive effect on driving consumers to meatless products. 
As though 2019 was the best year for plant-based food so far, do we expect 2020 to be even more successful?

Why plant-based proteins are winning
The last months showed an interesting shift in the consumer demand during the pandemic - the demand for meat alternatives in the US had skyrocketed by 280% in March compared to last year. Here is a sneak peak into data showing which products have seen major sales increasing in the weeks in March.
Experts attribute the rapid growth to two major factors:
  • Shortages of animal products in stores due to meat facility closures and supply chain disruption.
  • Growing interest in consumers to sustainable and healthy food.
Despite the rapid growth during the pandemics, alternative meats sales already had 158% year-over-year growth. 2019 was a year of huge milestones in the industry:
As the market continues to grow, many experts expect the plant-based foods to match and eventually surpass animal-based foods.
While alternative sources of protein and meat alternatives are new, innovative and exciting, in a few years times they will be normal.
Let’s take a look at the main drivers of the growth:
1. An escalating shift in consumer values towards healthier lifestyles. 
Consumers increasingly consider factors such as health, sustainability, and social impact in making their food decisions and pay more attention to the nutritional benefits offered by plant-based foods. A recent poll showed that 66% of consumers are reducing consumption of at least one type of meat and one in three Americans considering themselves a “flexitarian”. 
Although the plant-based food market is showing a steady growth, according to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory framework, plant-based meat is in the early adoption stage on the basis of household penetration (about 14%).
2. A shift in targeting.
Rather than targeting vegetarians only (which is a rather small market), plant-based meat companies are using marketing strategies to capture much larger audience of meat reducers and traditional meat eaters.
3. New manufacturing innovations.
Advances in production methods (extrusion technology remains a chief component of plant-based meat manufacturing) allow to constantly improve the texture, appearance, and flavor of the conventional meats. Food innovators aim to mimic the full meat experience in their products and improvements in plant-based meat taste and texture have been important drivers of consumer adoption.
4. Growth for plant-based food investments.
According to The Good Food Institute, the past decade has brought impressive growth for plant-based food investments, with a total of $2.3 billion in venture capital.
Source: Pitchbook
Source: Pitchbook
2019 showed the biggest growth with venture investments reached approximately $457 million. Beyond Meat went public in 2019,  selling over $760 million in shares through an IPO. Another high-profile innovator Impossible Foods raised an estimated $300 million in their Series E round, bringing to a total of $770 million raised by the company in 2019.
Source: The Good Food Institute
Source: The Good Food Institute
Even though 2019 was a great year for plant-based food, it is expected that 2020 would be more successful. Beyond Meat predicts 248% growth compared to 2019.  Impossible Foods announced in March 2020 a $500 million investment. But could we hope to see the plant-based meat industry evolve from a novel food to a mainstream staple this year?
Startups to watch in Europe
The Meatless Farm Company
‘Meat free but not taste free’. Meatless is a British company that has developed plant-based mince, burger patty and sausages all with natural plant-based ingredients. Besides soy proteins and pea proteins, the company is using beetroot for color and .
Meatless’s mission is to help people reduce their meat consumption by making swapping to meatless easy. The products can be delivered to your door and are also served at pubs and restaurants around the UK.
Amsterdam-based Seamore makes bacon out of seaweed, as well as other foods like pasta and bread. The company says it’s mission is to upgrade our favorite foods with tasty, healthy and sustainable sea veggies. For example, their seaweed bacon is made 100% from seaweed, is organic, low in carbohydrates, gluten-free and sustainable.
Whether you are looking for healthy variants of snacks, bread, pasta, or bacon, check out Seamore recipes which are simply delicious.
Moving Mountains
Moving Mountains styles its plant-based beef product as the “flexitarian burger”, which it claims will convert “even the most committed carnivores”. Their burger contains beetroot juice, giving it a much-talked-about “bleeding” meat effect.
Moving Mountains’ burgers are currently served up in over 2,000 restaurants across Europe, including the Hard Rock cafe.
Moving mountains burger
Moving mountains burger
Why Go Beyond
Snoop Dogg is a brand ambassador for Beyond Meat - saying it is how he can ‘make an impact’.
This video looks at some of the reasons people opt for plant-based foods –for 100% of the time or just for some days.
Why Go Beyond
The next global agricultural revolution
Food innovator Bruce Friedrich has two ideas on how the plant- and cell-based products could transform the global meat industry:
Idea number one: grow meat from plants. Instead of growing plants, feeding them to animals, and all of that inefficiency, let’s grow those plants, let’s biomimic meat with them, let’s make plant-based meat. 
Idea number two: for actual animal meat, let’s grow it directly from cells. Instead of growing live animals, let’s grow the cells directly. It takes six weeks to grow a chicken to slaughter weight. Grow the cells directly, you can get that same growth in six days.
The next global agricultural revolution | Bruce Friedrich
Wrapping up...
In the next issue, I will take a glimpse into a different future for meat that is happening in labs.  Food-as-Software, anyone? 😉
Till next issue,
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