Out of the niche, into the mass market: Vegetarian and vegan foods have been booming since the Corona crisis. The sausage manufacturer Rügenwalder Mühle has recorded sales increases of up to 100 percent for its meat-free alternative products in the past few months. Competitor Wiesenhof from Visbek bei Vechta also states that the market for vegetarian and vegan products is growing excellently this year. And the Swiss company Nestlé increased its sales of plant-based products by 40 percent in the first half of 2020. He has just launched a vegan alternative to tuna in his home market. “Vuna”, based on pea and wheat protein and with natural flavors, will soon also be sold in Germany.
The target group of the whole thing: “Flexitarians” – people who eat less fish and meat for health, climate or animal protection reasons, but who do not want to or cannot do without the taste of such products. So far, many consumers do not care that these products do not always meet expectations.
Because, for example, some of the vegetarian sliced sausages actually contain egg white – and animals have to be kept for this. And conditions in the egg production industry are not necessarily rosy.
But veggie is booming, even if the additives are piling up on the label and in some cases a lot of chemistry but little nature. What was decried as analog cheese a few years ago is now sold at high prices as vegan cheese – with a slightly different composition. And the consumer accepts it.
Plant-based foodstuffs already recorded strong growth in 2018 and 2019, according to a study by the “FAIRR Initiative” investor network presented last year. As a result, meat alternatives have so far only made up a small proportion of global sales, but they are growing at an above-average rate compared to the conventional meat sector: it recently increased by six percent, the meat-free alternatives by 25 percent.
The largest market (with a share of around ten percent) in Germany is plant-based milk alternatives, says Alex Grömminger, head of communications at ProVeg. The market share of vegetable sausage and meat alternatives is (still) lower. “In the coming years, however, this market will continue to grow strongly with double-digit growth rates in the middle range,” estimates Grömminger.
There are various reasons for the boom in plant-based foods: The climate debate is playing a role, as is the recent discussion about working conditions in the meat industry, says Christian Vagedes from Vegan Society Germany. The Corona crisis also gave food for thought.
When producing the alternatives, sustainability must be taken into account. If the demand for soy increases, for example, the following questions arise: Where can we grow it ourselves so that the product’s supply chain remains ecologically sound? As with all boom products, such questions probably only play a clearly subordinate role. (red)
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