Veggie burger patties or plant based meat

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Held Back by Fading Consumer Interest, Higher Prices

Aug. 15, 2023
CoBank report says plant-based meat alternatives have reached a tipping point after peaking in 2020, when consumers were more curious and had discretionary money to spend.

Plant-based meat alternatives continue to take punches from fading consumer interest on the chin, with CoBank the latest analysts to announce waning momentum in the category over the past two years.

The new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange believes plant-based meat alternatives have officially reached a tipping point, as higher prices have turned away consumers who had purchased them in the past. In addition, negative perceptions around the taste, value and versatility of plant-based alternatives have not eased, damaging consumer demand for the products.

The honeymoon for sales of plant-based alternatives appears over, having peaked in 2020, when consumers’ discretionary income was higher and curiosity was piqued about these newer protein alternatives. Citing data from Mintel, CoBank’s report states that fewer than half of U.S. consumers who tried the products at the time bought them a second time.

“Whatever their reason for purchase, plant-based offerings appear to have fallen short of consumers’ expectations in terms of either cost or performance “Market participants should be able to address the cost issues with greater economies of scale and minimized supply chain expenses,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and beverage economist for CoBank, in a release announcing the report. “However, innovation around taste, texture and mouthfeel will be essential to capture more mass-market consumers.”

Sales of meat alternatives have fallen steadily since 2021 and more sharply over the last year, the release said, and volume sales dropped 20.9% for the 52-week period ending July 2, 2023, according to consumer behavior research firm Circana.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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