With growing US health-consciousness and progressively changing consumer attitudes about healthy eating, a large range of different foods has wound up in the crosshairs of these changes, hurting sales and fuelling subsequent changes. Among these changes has been a growing desire to reduce meat intake, led by perceptions that meat may contribute to poor health outcomes and concerns over the environmental impact of the meat industry amid growth in the availability of plant-based alternatives.
As the populations of vegans and vegetarians in the US continue to grow in response to increasing concerns over meat intake, an even more impactful population has also seen strong growth in numbers. “Flexitarians”, or those consumers who actively seek to limit their meat intake while not ceasing it altogether, are a relatively new but fast-growing part of the US consumer population who represent very strong growth prospects for meat substitutes, sales of which continue to grow at surging rates and the product variety is expanding at a rapid pace.
Following the election of President Trump in late 2016, trade has become an issue receiving great attention in the US in a way not seen in a long time. President Trump campaigned for office on a platform partially built around criticising trade deals, such as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership), and upon assuming power, has made trade antagonism a centrepiece of his administration’s policies.
Despite efforts such as the pursuit of regulatory limits regarding usage of the term “meat” and a general preference by many with interests in the US meat and seafood industries that they not face the growing competition from these plant-based competitors, the shifting tide towards strong consistent growth and wide acceptance of these items has at the same time caused a reassessment of priorities by many. As substitutes increasingly reach a level of success whereby they cannot afford to be ignored and technology in this space rapidly develops, some interests in the traditional animal protein industry are beginning to hedge their bets by carving out a stake in this fast-growing area.
As growth broadly slowed towards the end of the review period across the US packaged food industry and consumers increasingly migrated away from the consumption of processed foods containing artificial ingredients and preservatives, many producers of processed meat and seafood struggled immensely. In this environment, competition stiffened dramatically, leading to significant efforts to attain growth.
Despite the ongoing struggles for producers of processed foods more broadly, a result of the increasing shift among US consumers towards healthier and more-natural eating, manufacturers of processed meat and seafood products nonetheless see opportunity alongside these shifting winds. While consumers are prioritising healthy eating, demand is higher than ever for foods offering convenience to increasingly busy consumers.
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