Alternative meat

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - April 5, 2021 - 12:00am

The alternative meat industry has gone a long way. The era of healthier food substitutes, which tasted like Gerber of sorts, is over. There’s now a wide array of healthy and delicious options available in supermarkets.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this last year when I started eating a plant-based diet.

Plant-based meat now (almost) tastes like real meat, except that you can eat it guilt-free.

Animal diseases

Demand for meat substitutes has grown through the years, but more so now because of animal diseases such as the African swine fever. Animal diseases have underscored the need for an alternative supply of protein to feed a steadily growing population, not just in the Philippines, but also for the whole world.

The rising cost of pork and other meat products – not just because of the strain placed on the supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by such animal diseases – has also put the spotlight on alternative meat.

As we have been seeing, growing awareness on healthier products, an expanding middle class, increasing demand for various protein sources and climate change concerns, are all pushing consumers to try alternative meat.

Feeding the global population

With the global population expected to move closer to 10 billion by 2050, it will become an even tougher task for traditional farmers to produce more, especially with most of the urban development, population growth, and rising middle class coming from developing nations, China included.

Experts have noted this emerging market as well.

McKinsey & Co. in 2019 believed that changes in diet, given health and environmental concerns particularly in the US, will drive the growth of the alternative meat market.

Tipping point

While hamburgers and steaks will likely stay on the menu into 2030, experts believe the tipping point that will put alternative protein sources at the center of the table is when substitute cheese is better and healthier than real cheese or if alternative proteins do taste better than chicken, beef or pork, but again healthier.

Alternative meat eaters will be happy to note that there is now a growing industry offering such products and there is room for further growth.

Indeed, based on a December 2020 global report of ReportLinker, meat products with health and wellness claims only accounted for 5.9 percent of the global market for meat, which stood at $1.2 trillion in 2019.

This gives the segment a large headway for growth given changing consumer preference. The global meat market is estimated to reach $1.371 trillion by 2024.

Before the pandemic, for instance, Beyond Meat held an initial public offering in the US that valued the producer of plant-based Beyond Burger at $1.5 billion, underscoring investors’ confidence in the future of substitute meats.

Changing consumer preference and strides made by Beyond Meat and its competitor Impossible Foods, have forced meat giants such as JBS of Brazil, Hormel, Cargill, and Tyson to venture into the meatless space.

In the Philippines, listed companies AgriNurture Inc. and San Miguel Corp. have ventured into alternative meat products as well, which are good, some of which I’ve actually enjoyed when I started my plant-based diet last year.

Century Foods, another listed company, recently introduced its own brand “Unmeat,” which is presented as “Good Burger” in the Shakey’s pizza chain menu.

Monde Nissin, which is behind staple brands such as Sky Flakes, Lucky Me, and Fita, also has a brand called Quorn, which plays in the alternative meat segment and is available in the UK, many parts of Europe, and the US.

Tomahawks, ribeyes, etc. will likely stay in the menu, but alternative meat options are good, too. You can take my word for it.

My plant-based diet has not been easy. It’s a struggle really, especially when all you want is to devour that steak served to another member of your household. And you actually do. So the truth is, I won’t claim I’ve succeeded. Not yet, anyway. But I’m taking baby steps. After all, the next best thing to success is the journey to succeed.

Eating healthier options is a choice not only for our bodies, but also for the environment, too. It’s a tough one, but as the world transitions to a post COVID-19 era, staying healthy isn’t much of a choice anymore, is it?



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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