Innovation in Context: Meat and Fish Substitutes

January 2020

Riding on positive media coverage, pure players and well-established meat processors alike compete in an increasingly competitive space charcterised by meat imitation at high prices. This analysis aims to help product development make the right choices today to serve consumers with the meat substitutes of tomorrow, by dealing proactively with criticism over ultra-processing, usage of soy, and dissapointing flavour through further innovation.

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Key Findings

Third party providers of meaty plant-protein structures facilitate new entries and increased competition

Shear-banding, the technology revolutionising imitation of meat structure and texture of chicken, tuna, beef, pork, is well documented in scientific literature. The innovative application of this technology to make meat and fish substitutes has resulted in several companies emerging as third party ingredient suppliers of this fibrous, layered protein structure. Mixing this structure with spices and colouring to make different products is easy and is the basis for several 2019 product developments. A lower technology entry barrier for manufacturers is sure to increase competition in the category, to the benefit of consumers.

A strong brand is the greatest advantage for international expansion

Given the increasing number of actors in meat substitutes, a strong brand is the number one advantage for international expansion. A good example is Beyond Meat, which manages to create hype months in advance of its introduction to any new market. Or Impossible Foods, that has managed to get its logotype on even the wrapper of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, gaining great brand visibility.

Gartner’s hype cycle predicts consumers’ expectations to decline

The media attention on meat and fish analogues is not in proportion to the market size. In other words - it is a hyped category. Consumer expectations follow a more or less predictable pattern according to the Gartner hype cycle. Judging from the events taking place in the market now, notably company failures in high per capita markets, it seems that consumer expectations are about to be significantly deflated, which will cause media interest to fade. Can the companies react skillfully to maintain sales?

Protein source is the biggest product differentiator right now

With technology for texture very similar across meat analogues and many players innovating a similar selection of products, the protein source is the largest differentiator between products. On the horizon - protein derived from thin air!


Key findings

Global Overview of Meat Substitutes

Western Europe, Australasia and North America lead in meat analogues
Developed markets see the fastest growth, driven by lifestyle trends
Monde Nissin and Nestlé are the exporters to match

Analogues in Foodservice and Meat Shelves

Foodservice adoption of third party branded meat substitutes
Sustainability a key sales agreement in both B2C and B2B
Foodservice developing its own meat substitutes
More voices claim that meat substitutes is a hype ready for demise
Meat processors willing to including meat substitutes in assortment

Product Development Opportunities and Challenges

Buying the protein fibres from third party becomes more popular
Key players attempting a multi-sensory experience
Ingredients become a key differentiator for label-reading consumers
Declines in Italy and Germany due to poor assortments
Assortments are widening as new players enter the game
The fear of the processed meat substitutes is yet to come
Unconvincing taste remains an issue for the industry
Fish substitutes a good fit for Asia Pacific
Trending and upcoming innovations in fish substitutes

Future Outlook

Future key developments
Next steps


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