In this year plant-based products will be catching up with meat

Between October 2019 and October 2020, the total European retail market for plant-based alternatives to meat, yoghurt and milk grew by 28%. Plant-based dairy is the largest category, according to the ING report on the expected growth of plant-based meat substitutes in the European food industry.

Plant-based: large growth, small category

Between 2010 and 2020, the market for dairy and meat alternatives grew by almost 10% annually. This growth stems from new introductions and the consumer wish for a more plant-based diet, because of reasons such as health, animal welfare and sustainability. The increase in plant-based sales comes from a small basis:

  • In 2020, the market share of meat substitutes in European retail was 0.7% of the meat market.
  • According to ING, the market share of plant-based dairy is 2.5%.

Plant-based: up to 7.5 billion euros in 2025

If the 10% annual growth is maintained, retail sales of meat substitutes could grow to 2.5 billion euros and plant-based dairy to 5 billion euros by 2025. The market shares will then grow to 1.3% for meat alternatives and 4.1% for dairy alternatives.

Over the next five years, the battle for market share will increase, particularly in the established markets of north-western Europe. At the same time, there are opportunities to introduce successful products in other countries and to adopt plant-based alternatives in adjacent categories.

Many innovations are taking place in the plant-based category, and consumers are prepared to try them. However, sometimes the success is just temporary, because only really good innovations last and make the category grow.

Growth in the market share of meat substitutes

Over the past two years, meat substitutes have benefited from a consumer desire to eat less meat. The retail market for meat substitutes has grown by double digits. This growth also continued in 2020. Sales of meat substitutes increased by about 20 per cent, while meat sales increased by 9 per cent due to the rush to the supermarkets. In conclusion: the market share of meat substitutes has grown even further.

In 2020, ABN AMRO published its report ‘Discord in the food industry continues’. An important finding was that the category of meat substitutes will continue to grow in the coming years, but that the growth spurt is decreasing: the category is becoming more mature. This can be seen in veggie-burger sales. In 2018, this category increased by 25 per cent, and by 20 per cent in 2019, but ‘only’ by 7 per cent in 2020. The growth of vegetarian schnitzels also declined slightly. Other meat substitutes showed stronger growth. This development can also be seen in the Netherlands: in 2019, the sales of plant-based burgers grew by 25%, but by 16% in 2020.

Three barriers to the future growth of plant-based meat substitutes

The offer of meat and dairy alternatives continues to develop. However, future growth will depend on the following three factors:

  1. The plant-based sector must bridge the price difference with animal products. Currently, plant-based alternatives are relatively expensive.
  2. The user experience must be better (taste and nutritional profile). What can sometimes be a poor user experience means that there is no repeat purchase.
  3. Distribution and availability must increase. Limited availability ensures that no repeat purchases are made.

When will plant-based surpass meat and dairy sales?

Although the focus is increasingly on plant-based alternatives, there is still a long way to go. In Europe, the dominant sources of protein continue to be meat and dairy, especially given its current size. But given the global developments and the growth of the last few years, it is expected that plant-based will continue to grow.

Given the enormous size of the meat and dairy market and the relatively small proportion of plant-based alternatives, at the current rate, it will not be until about 2055 that sales of plant-based products exceed the sales of dairy products. And it will definitely not be until 2065 that sales of meat alternatives surpass meat sales.

Sources:

  • ABN AMRO report – February 2020: Discord in the food industry continues
  • ING report – October 2020 – Growth of meat and dairy alternatives is stirring up the European food industry
  • Smart Protein report – 2020 – : Plant-based foods in Europe: How big is the market?
  • Markets and Markets Global Forecast to 2025

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