David MacLennan, the chief executive officer of agribusiness giant Cargill, the world’s third-largest meat producer globally, said that the plant-based protein industry will eat into the market share of animal-based products in a few years as the alternative protein sector rapidly expands.
U.S.-based agri-giant Cargill, which regularly makes headlines for environmental and social missteps including food contamination, violation of rights at the workplace and negative environmental impact, most notably its role in deforestation practices in Indonesia, is in the news again thanks to its CEO’s remarks about plant-based meat, which the executive believes will become a not-insignificant part of the company’s portfolio.
According to a Reuters report, at a National Grain and Feed Association convention on Friday 4 June, MacLennan commented on the calls he received from Chinese authorities to accelerate production, despite the country importing a a record amount of grain for feed purposes last year. He also underlined that the growth of plant-based will mean some market share loss in their beef production. “Our analysis is that in……three to four years plant-based will be perhaps 10% of the market. We’re a large beef producer and that is a big part of our portfolio. So there’s some cannibalization that will occur.”
Further, MacLennan added that the company is gearing up for a significant blow that could arise if predictions prove correct and China’s domestic livestock feed industry becomes self-sufficient in the near future.
In the last year in U.S. alone, sales of plant-based food grew by double compared to the broader market to reach a whopping US$7 billion.
During the pandemic, 92% of people in the U.S. that tried out plant-based meat for the very first time said they have plans to adopt these foods permanently in the future citing health and food safety reasons associated with animal-based meat and currently, 42% of the global population are flexitarian consumers, i.e. actively reducing their consumption of animal-based foods without completely eliminating them.
Cargill already dived into the sector last year by partnering with the fast-food chain KFC China to unveil a trial of plant-based nuggets.
Next it launched its own plant-based meat brand PlantEver for Chinese consumers and just last month it invested in Bflike, a company that licenses its proprietary plant-based technology and ingredient solutions to create alt proteins, in an effort to debut “next generation” plant-based meat and fish products.
Our analysis is that in three to four years plant-based will be perhaps 10% of the market. We’re a large beef producer and that is a big part of our portfolio. So there’s some cannibalization that will occurDavid MacLennan, CEO, Cargill
In addition, the company supplies pea protein to meat alternative pioneer Beyond Meat through its joint venture with PURIS Foods and recently kept aside US$475 million to expand its U.S. soybean crush capacity.
In another similar statement, founder and CEO of one of the world’s leading plant-based brand Impossible Foods, Patrick Brown said that the meat industry will be completely wiped out within the next 15 years and that “transformation is inevitable”
Lead image courtesy of University of Minnesota.