Global investors are showing increasing interest in alternative protein sources, such as plant-based options and lab-grown meat.
The explosive IPO of Beyond Meat in May is a clear indicator of investor excitement around alternative proteins, although the company's subsequent drop in share price could point towards plant-based 'meat' as simply a marketing fad rather than a real investment trend.
Fuelling the uptake in alternative proteins is a rapid shift in our dietary habits, and it is not just the rise of veganism and vegetarianism, but also those who want to cut down on their meat intake, otherwise known as flexitarians. It is the latter group that are the real drivers of market demand for plant-based substitutes as they seek to reduce their meat consumption, but do not want to forego the taste of meat itself.
Over the past decade, meat consumption has come under fire from various angles.
The expansion of personal wealth paired with an ageing population have enabled our obsession with 'health and wellness'. This trend typically demonises meat due in part to the numerous reports published on the potential links between consumption of processed or red meat and types of cancer.
Other factors driving the switch towards plant-based alternatives include significant media coverage of the impact of meat and dairy product production on global warming.
As society becomes increasingly conscious of environmental issues, the fact that meat production is highly water and carbon-intensive has been widely publicised. Furthermore, animal rights activist groups are gaining traction and dissuading people from consuming meat.
The combination of the rising number of people looking to eat plant-based alternatives, and the significant investment in new product innovation from both start-up and established food companies, is having a spiralling effect, driving large growth in the alternative proteins market.
This trend is expected to continue to accelerate, with Barclays predicting that plant-based meat substitutes could be worth a hefty $140bn, or 10% of the $1.4trn meat market, in the next ten years.