The fast growth of plant-based alternatives to animal products could mean Europe and North America will reach “peak meat” by 2025, at which point consumption of conventional meat starts to fall, according to a report.
The study also forecasts that plant-based meats will match regular meat on price by 2023 and that nine out of 10 of the world’s favourite dishes – from pepperoni pizza to sushi – will have realistic alternatives by 2035.
The report, by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Blue Horizon Corporation, says it is very likely that alternative proteins will capture 11% of the global protein market by 2035, and 22% if rapid technology and regulatory progress is made.
An increasing number of people are eating meat and dairy alternatives as concern grows over health, the environmental impact of livestock and animal welfare. The report says the annual market for alternative meat, eggs, dairy and seafood products is on course to reach at least $290bn (GBP210bn) by 2035.
“The most striking thing is that in developed economies, we’re going to be at peak meat in 2025 in some scenarios,” said Decker Walker, the head of agribusiness at BCG. “There’s all this talk that alternative proteins are futuristic, and that many people don’t resonate with the concept of artificial meat. But what most people don’t realise is that we’re actually already at a point where [traditional] meat consumption is going to be declining for the first time in history. The global consequences of the shift to alternative proteins are significant.”
If alternative proteins grow to 11% of sales over the next 15 years, the report estimates that 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will have been avoided, farmland equivalent to the area of the UK will have been freed from supporting livestock, and 50bn fewer chickens will have been raised.
Decker said meat alternatives were already convincing in recipes such as spaghetti bolognese, where they were just a small proportion of the overall flavour profile. Unprocessed cuts of meat would be the last to have realistic alternatives, he said. “When you do a steak, everything has to be perfect,” he said.
Rosie Wardle, a partner at Synthesis Capital, which invests in alternative proteins, said: “From what we’ve seen as investors in this emerging sector over the past six years, I think 11% alternative proteins by 2035 is a conservative number. Given the confluence of factors driving momentum in the sector, I’d wager that the report’s bull case number of 22% is the more likely outcome by 2035.”