Recent data shows that more and more consumers are opting for plant-based meat alternatives when making dietary choices. Research released in 2018 by Mintel, reveals that 53% of Canadians say they eat meat alternatives with one in five (18%) consuming meat alternatives a few times a week.
Studies have shown that plant-based alternatives can have a positive impact on health, helping to reduce LDL cholesterol, prevent type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure. While the Mintel research indicates that 2 in five, or 21% of Canadians agree that plant-based proteins are healthier than meat, others choose meat alternatives because of concerns over animal welfare or the environmental impact of commercial fishing and farming.
Canadians who consume meat listed not liking the taste of meat alternatives and their extra cost as reasons not to make the switch. However, many meat alternatives are less expensive than meat when not manufactured to look like burgers, chops or ‘dogs’ and most legumes and nuts can substitute for meat protein in many common food dishes. Portobello mushrooms, lentils and sliced zucchini or eggplant are often used in place of meats for example.
As the desire for meatless alternatives increases, so does the variety and quality of products available to consumers. Traditional alternatives such as tofu and tempeh are still popular options, but increasingly products meant to replicate the taste and texture of meat are on the rise, including meatless burgers, chicken wings, lunchmeat and bacon. Industry data shows that the meat substitutes market is expected to reach $4.63 billion USD in 2018 and is projected to rise to $6.43 billion by 2023.
According to sales and marketing agency Acosta’s 2018 Progressing Protein Palates report, 71% of shoppers still eat meat but have incorporated plant-based meat alternatives into their diet, with an 11% increase of plant-based units sold year over year. “Our research shows that protein continues to be a mainstay in shopping baskets, but the kind of proteins shoppers are buying is evolving,” noted Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President, Insights at Acosta. “Plant-based meat alternative sales are booming and popular with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.”
There is no better example of the increased demand for meatless alternatives than the recent launch of the vegan Beyond Burger by fast-food chain A&W. The burger launched on July 9 but quickly sold out in many outlets, prompting A&W to post signs noting the Canada-wide shortage of the burger due to overwhelming demand. Beyond Meat, the producer of the Beyond Burger patty, is set to open a new factory in Missouri to cope with growing demand.