For Maple Leaf Foods, the bloom is off the pea protein.
In its fourth-quarter and full-year results, Maple Leaf reported disappointing results from its Plant Protein Group, which markets plant-based alternative protein products including hot dogs and other sausages, roasts, burgers, cheese, tempeh and more. Sales, at $35.6 million, were down 10%, and the unit lost $7.8 million for the quarter. It had made a tiny profit of about $235,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020. For the full year, sales were down about 13%, to $144.1 million. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.)
The problem is that a lot of consumers, driven by the hype over plant-based protein, try the products once, dislike them and never buy them again, company officials say.
Maple Leaf was driven by underperforming results to initiate a review of its alt-protein portfolio late last year. “While the Company's analysis is ongoing, the results to date confirm that the very high category growth rates previously predicted by many industry experts are unlikely to be achieved given current customer feedback, experience, buy rates and household penetration,” its report says.
For the company as a whole, sales were up 5%, to $3.52 billion. Earnings remained unchanged, at $312.8 million.