The world’s plant-based meat market was estimated to be more than $5 billion in 2021, demonstrating a 19% increase compared to the previous year’s figure. As the global population is projected to exceed 8 billion people in 2022, driven by population growth in South-East and Far East Asia, the concerns about meat availability, the main source of protein, are also rising. These issues have contributed to the rapid development of the plant-based meat sector all over the world, especially in China, which accounts for 44% of the pork consumption in the world.
However, besides the growing global population, there are many fundamental reasons why plant-based proteins are gaining popularity: surging meat prices, higher consumer awareness about healthy food selection as well as environmental sustainability concerns. These were burning topics, especially at the end of 2021, when 26 nations discussed measures to tackle global warming. The constant emergence of diseases like bird flu and swine flu have been jeopardizing meat production all over the world and have led to periodical price hikes. This also quickened the development of the plant-based meat industry.
Source: Food and Agricultural Organization
Global meat prices
Global demand for protein has been constantly pushing prices up for certain types of meat all over the world. Beef prices saw the biggest increase, which surged three-fold from 2000 to 2021. The biggest price gains have been observed in the past two years amid decreasing stocks in Australia and in the EU coupled with firm Chinese demand.
Source: International Monetary Fund
Global warming has been on the agenda all over the world in the past 10 years. As meat production is responsible for twice more emissions than plant-based food, the trend towards the latter has become stronger. To tackle the environmental pollution caused by animal husbandry, some countries have decided to drastically limit meat production of certain types. In 2021, the Netherlands unveiled a 13-year plan to reduce the livestock herd in the country by 30% to reduce nitrogen pollution.
China as a big potential market
The Chinese plant-based meat market has been growing constantly in the five years driven by both healthcare and environmental reasons. The Euromonitor study shows that the local market for the mentioned products is estimated to exceed $12 billion by 2023, which is 20% more compared to the previous milestone in 2018. The robust growth of the segment is supported by numerous factors, including the government initiative to cut meat consumption by 50% in the next decade to tackle environmental issues and to prevent obesity in the population. Increasing awareness of the negative impact of excessive meat consumption is also pushing plant-based meat consumption to grow. In 2019, the age group from 18 to 35 years old accounted for 47% of all vegetable-based meat consumption. Given the fact that this group represents 400 million people, the potential for further growth is huge.
In addition to soy proteins, which dominate the vegetable-based meat sector in China, the local market has been actively ramping up the production of other alternatives on the market: legume-based proteins. Although the exact production figures for these products are not known, import figures for pulses over the last five years show an upward trend.
Source: ITC Trade Map
Although imported dried pea has become one of the key ingredients of the animal feed ratio, the pea protein sector is growing in China, reducing the share of imported peas used for fodder. The market value of pea protein was estimated to be at more than $64 million in 2021.
China also has been actively importing mung beans for making pulse protein. This legume is gaining more popularity in the country because of its health benefits. In 2020, China imported more than 205,000 tonnes of mung beans, 700% more than in 2016. The latest data show that the imports of this legume in the first eight months of 2021 reached almost 170,000 tonnes, 39% more year on year.
A rise in imports of the mentioned ingredients is also related to the entrance of new players in the Chinese market that are specialized in producing not only soy protein but also legume-based proteins. A bright example is Beyond Meat company, a Californian plant meat producer that started a new production plant close to Shanghai in 2021. The firm specializes in producing poultry, pork, and beef made of soybeans, legumes, and other plants. In addition to production facilities, the company has launched a research and development center, that will be working on creating plant-based meat tailored for the consumers in the Asia Pacific region.
The Guardian. Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production, study finds
China Marketing Insights. Plant Based Meat in China: Local Brands Vying for a Share of this Fast Growing Market
Vegconomist. Chinese consumers have reached 90% awareness of plant protein products
Daxueconsulting. Vegan meat in China: Why you should not sleep on this burgeoning industry
Sixthtone. Young Chinese Show a Growing Appetite for Plant-Based Diets
FAS USDA. Market Overview of Plant-Based Meat Alternative Products in China
FAS USDA. Pulses - Kidney Beans and Dried Peas
Bloomberg. Plant-based Foods Market to Hit $162 Billion in Next Decade, Projects Bloomberg Intelligence
Food Business News. Beyond Meat to open R&D center in Shanghai
Futuremarketinsights. Pea Protein Ingredients Market Snapshot