Promising figures show higher consumption of plant-based meat for US American consumers during pandemic
Sales of plant-based meats have soared during the pandemic as customers shift diets due to growing unease about factory farming, working conditions in meat-packing plants and suspicion over a possible link between wild animal meat and COVID-19.
The cultivated meat sector hope that means more people will want to try cultivated meat when it becomes available in the next year or so, though high costs and doubtful consumers could mean "clean meats" - as the nascent industry calls them - take longer to gain acceptance.
"This technology - taking a stem cell and turning it into meat - will have a huge impact on the environment," Bjorn Orvar, co-founder and chief scientific officer of the Icelandic company ORF, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Because then you will reduce land use so much. And you will really reduce the emissions and water consumption... This will also make local food production much easier," he said.
Greater concern about such issues may have fuelled demand for soy sausages, bean burgers and other plant-based meats during global coronavirus lockdowns.
Between March 21 and June 20, U.S. sales of fresh plant-based meat were up by triple digits every week compared to last year, according to non-profit The Good Food Institute (GFI), which analysed data from market research firm Nielsen. Sales of fresh traditional meat also grew during the same period, although at a much lower rate.
Beyond Meat, which makes vegan burgers and sausages, posted a 96% increase in net revenue in the first half of 2020 and launched an e-commerce site in August to sell directly to consumers.
A recent survey by research firm Datassential showed that a quarter of American respondents said they were less likely to buy meat due to COVID-19 outbreaks among meat plant workers. In addition, 29% said they were less likely to order meat dishes when dining out and 47% say they would switch to meat alternatives. Younger consumers were more likely to express those sentiments in each case, the survey found.
In Asia too, market researcher Euromonitor is expecting the region's market for plant-based options - typically based on soybeans or other grains or pulses - to grow by 11.6% this year.
China, whose 1.4 billion population could sway global demand, is set to have a "phenomenal year" with both local and international plant-based products entering the market, according to GFI Asia Pacific.