Well, we guess it is true what they say – if you can’t beat ’em … join ’em. Or at least this phrase is becoming more and more true for meat and dairy companies that are finding themselves pitted against plant-based alternatives by increasingly health-conscious and environmentally-minded consumers. In fact, around 30 percent of Americans are leaving meat off their plates more frequently and actively seeking out plant-based protein sources. Thanks to growing awareness that meat is not the healthiest or the most sustainable source of protein, demand for alternative protein sources are at an all time high. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and could make up one-third of the market by 2050.
Given this burgeoning market, it’s no surprise that even meat companies are starting to get on board with the plant-based protein trend. Most recently, Tyson Foods, Inc., the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, has even begun to dip its toes in meat alternatives with the announcement that the company has taken a five percent ownership stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat. The plant-based company recently released the Beyond Burger, a vegan burger that cooks just like a meat burger and plans to be sold behind the meat case. According to a joint press release, the investment will provide additional capital to help the company expand its product portfolio and distribution.
While this might seem out of the ordinary for Tyson Foods, the parent company of brands like of Jimmy Dean, Ball Park Franks, and Hillshire Farms, Tyson shareholders recently filed a resolutions report urging the company to make changes to certain environment, social, and governance policies, specifically mentioning the burgeoning plant-based movement and consumer concerns over animal welfare, among other things. And Tyson’s shareholders are hardly the only to express concern. Following in line with encouraging meat companies to get on the plant-based bandwagon, in September 2016, a $1.25 trillion coalitions of investors signed on to urge companies such as Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco and Walmart to look into plant-based products. In addition, the venture capital arm of General Mills invested a number of plant-based companies including Kite Hill and Beyond Meat, and Pinnacle Foods (packaged meat producer) acquired Gardein, a plant protein company.
Investing in clean, plant-based protein is quite simply the sustainable choice for companies in the meat industry, and this is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
“As I predicted a few months ago, it would only be a matter of time before meat giants like Hormel and Tyson started to introduce their own protein-alternatives in the market,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet. “Tyson’s investment in Beyond Meat is just the first step towards a future of protein that will not be based on meat obtained from raising and processing livestock.”
Some may be hesitant to embrace meat industry giants like Tyson getting involved in the plant-based sector, but we are reaching a time where the question of how we are going to feed a growing population that is set to reach nine billion by 2050 cannot be ignored. Demand for protein in the developed and developing world is at an all-time high, with the average person in the U.S. consuming 103 grams per day, around double the actual recommended amount. The animal agriculture system already covers over 45 percent of the world’s land mass, uses a majority of finite freshwater water resources, and is responsible for rampant air and water pollution – not to mention is the largest singular source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even with all the resources that this industry uses, nearly one billion people still go hungry. The fact is, we need big companies like Tyson to get involved in shifting our broken food system away from animal agriculture and towards a more sustainable one centred around plant-based proteins instead.
“Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, that are pioneering plant proteins, are to the food industry what Tesla is to the automotive industry,” Zacharias said. “Advancements in plant-protein are the kind of technological innovations the world desperately needs. In fact, it may be one of the only real shots we have to make our future on this planet possible.”
Thanks to companies like Beyond Meat and investors that are willing to bet on sustainable innovations in the food space, we are seeing the future of food being formed here and now – and undoubtedly, that future is plant-based.
All image source: Beyond Meat