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Meat-free in the future?

27 Apr 2020

The transformation from being a fan of grilled chicken to becoming a confirmed vegetarian is easier than ever today: Due to the consumers' increased demand for alternative offers to meat and fish, in the meantime a regular market for vegetarian and vegan products has established itself.

Forgoing something without doing without What appears to be a contradiction in itself, is indeed reality for 6.1 million people in Germany. According to Statista, this is the number of people in Germany, who are vegetarian or vegan. And they are catered for: Whereas "living without meat" meant having to make do with carrots instead of cutlets in the past, today there is a growing market for alternative products. The choice of products available ranges from vegetarian ham through to vegan burger patties. More and more food producers and franchise chains are recognising this development and are expanding their offers of meat-free food.

This is meanwhile also noticeable on the market: According to Lebensmittelzeitung (food magazine), the turnover made with vegetarian and vegan food in 2019 amounted to Euro 1.22 billion. A significant growth compared to the year 2017 when the turnover totalled Euro 736 million. But the development doesn't stop there. Indeed, in 2018 Germany was actually the most important market for vegan products in the international comparison. Around 15% of the newly introduced vegan products worldwide celebrated their premiere in Germany.

Vegetarianism and veganism: tracking down the trend

Meat-free diet: Vegini to go

Reasons for following a meat-free diet

What motivates 6.1 million German people to commit themselves to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? The main focus mostly lies on three aspects: In addition to the obvious animal welfare reasons, people want to make a contribution towards the preservation of environmental systems and they also do without meat for reasons of their own health. Lukas Wischenbart from Vegini to go knows what also motivates the consumers to follow a meat-free diet in this day and age: "More and more consumers are thinking about where the foodstuffs they eat come from, which ingredients they contain and how sustainable the packaging is. The products should be regional, allergy-free, sustainably packed and where possible also free of additives."

Between values and change

So, the consumers of meat substitute products are also the more critical buyers? The Trade Brand Monitor 2018 underlines this: 86% of the vegetarians and vegans would welcome an independent seal, which guarantees that products really are vegetarian or vegan. Whereby only 64% of the persons surveyed trust the labelling of trademarks as "vegetarian" or "vegan". In vegetarian, but above all in vegan circles, often very controversial discussions are held about this across online forums or social media channels. Manufacturers with a lack of tact can soon provoke the discontentment of the community.

For the companies of the food industry this is motivation enough to keep on searching for new methods and ways of satisfying the critical demands of their customers. For example, the Finnish start-up, Solar Foods, is striving to produce a protein comprising of CO², hydrogen and nutrients with the aid of a bacterium and explains that under the right pre-conditions the production process will be five to ten times more climate-friendly than growing plants. Or the company, Beyond Meat, whose meat balls are to resemble meat, but are in fact made from pea protein. With the most successful flotation in the USA since the year 2000 and huge growth, the Californian company is quite clearly placing its bets on the current zeitgeist.

Beware, risk of mistaken identity!

Beyond Meat is long since not the only company that relies on a meat-like taste among its products. The growing demand for delicious meat alternatives predominantly results in products that are oriented on the taste of their animal role models. Lukas Wischenbart: "Of course, this hype that has arisen encourages all of the suppliers to develop even better meat-like alternatives so they can offer the end consumers a wide offer." It is particularly remarkable "how closely the latest product developments in this section resemble meat, not merely imitating the taste and bite feel, but also in some cases offering better nutritional value than their animal counterparts. Huge progress has been made here especially over the past three years. In future, all of the other manufacturers will follow suit and work even harder on making the products as natural as possible without lots of additives and added flavourings."

An interesting development that could have a positive effect on the number of vegetarians and vegans. These products make the initial step towards a meat-free diet much easier.

Trend or change?

Meat-free products at Anuga Organic

For the time being, there is no end in sight to the demand for alternative products. The corporate consultants at A.T. Kearney are even forecasting that the turnover with meat substitute products will continue to increase up until the year 2040 and that the turnover with meat products will steadily fall. The experts of J.P. Morgan and Barclay assume that the decreasing turnover up to 2035 could imply a loss of around ten percent for the meat industry. As far as Lukas Wischenbart is concerned, the trend will not only be ongoing, it will also change the food industry long-term: "Consuming less meat and eating more plant-based alternatives instead will have a positive effect in different areas. If less meat is consumed, this will lead to a reduction in factory farming and all the problems it brings with it. As a result, the fodder imports from South America would be reduced and in turn the deforestation of the rain forest."

Meat-free diets and plant-based alternatives seem to have the potential to bring about sustainable changes. A theme that will no doubt be the focus of interest at Anuga 2021 too.