Plant-based foods offer SA a fresh opportunity
CAPE TOWN- The consumption of plant-based meat and dairy food alternatives is growing fast in many overseas markets, creating new opportunities also for South African food producers, according to Berlin-based ProVeg.
Around the world there had been a big increase in consumption of plant-based products that mimic the taste and texture of meat, milk, seafood and cheese, according to a statement from the food awareness group’s head of food industry Verena Wiederkehr.
The company recently did a consumer survey across nine European countries to identify priorities for product improvement in the plant-based food market . The research identified gaps in the market that South African food manufacturers could take advantage of.
The research showed that even in other meat-loving countries like Germany, the move away from meat was significant. Only 26 percent of Germans ate a meat product every day compared to 34 percent in 2015 - and it’s not just Europe. Demand for plant-based products in China was growing rapidly.
The market for milk alternatives had also “exploded”. “You know there’s something to take note of when a company like Coca-Cola enters the market, which they have done by launching a new brand of plant milk: Simply Almond,” Wiederkehr said.
For predictions on the growth of plant-based products, manufacturers could look to the market for plant-based meat alternatives, which was predicted to double in the next five years.
This global market was valued at $12.1 billion (R200bn) in 2019 and was predicted to grow at 15 percent annual, reaching almost $28bn by 2025.
“Market insiders will tell you this is a conservative estimate - Beyond Meat currently has a market capitalisation of $9bn alone. The global meat market, by comparison, was only predicted to grow by 3 percent a year. "
In Europe, plant-based cheese was the product that was highlighted as the biggest opportunity for plant-based food producers, in the survey.
Wiederkehr, who oversaw the research, said the data “supports the view that good quality, affordable, plant-based cheeses have a good chance of penetrating, capturing and retaining a large part of this fast-growing and lucrative sector.”
Gaps had been identified in the European market, and there was good reason to think these export opportunities exist elsewhere.
Additionally, there was an opportunity to be the first mover in some of these categories locally; for example, all of the plant-based cheeses available in our large retailers are imported.
Infinite Foods, a local importer of plant-based based products like Beyond Meat’s burger, mince and sausages, Miyoko’s plant-based butter, Nature & Moi plant-based cheese, and recently Oatly oat milk, agreed with the ProVeg findings.
“Research like this …confirms a lot of what we have been seeing. We are creatiing partnerships with local producers to bring more home-grown products to the market in the categories mentioned in the report”, said Infinite chief operating office Neil Taylor.
In 2019, South African meat company Feinschmecker Deli Meats was the first local meat producer to market a plant-based meat replacement product when they launched Gudness - a range of plant-based deli slices.
Feinschmecker managing director Alistair Hayward said plant-based products were not just there for vegetarians - most of the growth in the category had been driven by people who still eat some meat, but were trying to cut back - or just trying new sustainable options.
Other opportunities highlighted in the report included plant-based egg and plant-based convenience meals.
The only major local manufacturer in this market is Durban-based The Fry Family Food Co, which exports meat alternatives, like their Chicken-Style Burgers and Nuggets.