The meat substitutes industry in Germany saw a remarkable turnaround in 2018 and 2019, as high-profile new product launches generated renewed interests from consumers and helped them return to the aisle. This follows a temporary halt in the sales growth impetus in 2017, when the previous wave of new products had become more mature.
Major brands successfully target flexitarians rather than vegetarians thanks to improving the taste and texture properties of their assortment in order to be increasingly close to meat equivalents, which resulted in widening the industry’s customer base in Germany.
New brands and private label challenge the pioneer Rügenwalder Mühle
The Incredible Burger range under Nestlé's Garden Gourmet brand was among the most high-profile recent launches. Nestlé extended the brand’s reach in the second half of 2019 by introducing vegan minced meat. Another major recent entry was Iglo with the Veggie Love brand at the end of 2018, which contributed to developing the nascent assortment of meat substitutes in the frozen aisle of grocery retailers.
Alongside large international companies, home-grown start-ups such as LikeMeat are also gaining exposure thanks to a widening offering and by being listed at major grocery retailers. LikeMeat has gained popularity through its assortment of products replacing chicken, such as vegetarian nuggets.
Retailers, especially discounter chains, also played a key role in increasing the publicity surrounding meat alternatives, notably through the launch of the Beyond Meat brand by the Lidl and Netto chains in spring 2019, which helped keep meat alternatives in media headlines. In summer 2019, Lidl also launched its private label range Next Level Meat and Aldi followed with the launch of a new veggie burger, Wonderburger. Retailers with a more established presence in meat substitutes, such as the organic supermarket food chain Alnatura and the health and beauty specialist chain dm-drogerie markt, also continue promoting and widening their private label assortment.
Despite growing competition from new challengers, Rügenwalder Mühle’s position as a pioneer and as the largest meat substitute brand remains undisputed, helped by strong brand awareness derived from its meat-based products and the brand’s appeal to flexitarians, backed by wide distribution across major retail chains. The company also continued to record strong growth through meat substitutes in 2019, thanks to new recipes and by widening its range.
Strong growth potential and major disruptions expected
Although growth rates for meat substitutes are expected to slow down over the 2019-2024 period as the industry reaches a higher level of maturity, it retains strong potential for growth. As it should continue to be driven by new product innovations, increased distribution, as well as by consumers’ interest in reducing their meat intake for animal welfare and environmental reasons. The growing selection of meat substitutes at foodservice outlets is also expected to contribute to the use of new recipes and subsequent adoption through retail channels.
However, the future growth of meat substitutes could also depend on how rapidly new types of other high-protein food replacing traditional fish and meat will become available and affordable. Notably insect-based products, but also lab-grown meat, in case technological break-throughs supported by vast investments makes the latter a commercially viable alternative.