Sunday, April 14, 2024

Plant-based meat continues to evolve in Australia

The volume and types of plant-based meats in Australia have changed significantly over the past three years, according to Food Frontier.

“What’s clear is that a new food category has emerged from one or two niche players to create an industry that’s here to stay,” says the independent alternative protein ‘think tank’.

“In major retail in Australia, the plant-based meat category has gone from fewer than five brands made by Australian/New Zealand businesses in 2017, to more than 30.

“There has also been a three-fold increase in the number of products on shelves over the last few years, from less than 90 to just under 300.”

The findings are the results of audits of major supermarkets in Melbourne and Sydney in mid-2023.

New formats   

The types of products are shifting too, says Food Frontier. Consumers are said to be looking for convenience, which has seen a significant increase in the supply of formats like schnitzels and nuggets, through to mince and meatballs, and to deli slices, snacking and finger foods.

“We know that the early adopters of plant-based meats in Australia and around the world are flexitarians – they are the cohort, used to centre-of-plate proteins or protein-based dishes, that are now looking for healthier alternatives to those conventional protein sources and for products that mimic what they’re used to buying,” says Food Frontier CEO Dr Simon Eassom.

“When plant-based options first appeared on our shelves in Australia, about six years ago, they were mostly in the form of utility foods: sausages and burgers. There were probably too many manufacturers all providing the same style of product and, rightly so, customers have voted with their tastebuds and their wallets. This category has seen zero increase and some contraction in terms of the number of manufacturers, with the lion’s share of the market now dominated by a few strong brands. The data gathered by Food Frontier indicates that other formats that can be incorporated into a much wider range of dishes are gaining favour and manufacturers are responding accordingly.”

Looking ahead

Overall, the number of plant-based meat products available in Australia peaked at about 350 in early 2023, according to Food Frontier, and, as expected in new food categories, there has since been consolidation.

“We expect the category to continue to evolve and we wouldn’t be surprised to see further changes by way of company integration, and product formulations,” says Mr Eassom.

“This is a food industry that’s continuing to innovate and adapt to consumer tastes and budgets, plus the availability of more sophisticated ingredients will help manufacturers improve products to meet expectations around taste and texture as well as price.”

Food Frontier will release its third state of the industry report in mid-2024, providing up to date insights into the value of the industry and current projections.

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