“Fake meat” might have sounded like a gross, even laughable idea just a decade ago. But after Beyond Meat Inc., the vegan burger maker, surpassed $200 per share last month (after a $25 offering price), who’s laughing now?
According to a new report by UBS Global Wealth Management, advances have triggered an agricultural revolution that is set to greatly expand the broader agriculture technology market, which is expected to reach $700 billion in 2030 from $135 billion today. The plant-protein (aka fake meat) market looks particularly promising, with experts estimating that it should swell from $4.6 billion to a staggering $85 billion by 2030.
And all of this is great news for basically everyone — apart from those involved in intensive animal farming.
Lab-grown food isn’t just some fad poised to come and go with the seasons. Agriculture currently accounts for 40% of land use, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 70% of freshwater consumption. The world’s population is expected to hit the 10 billion mark in 2050, and billions currently living in developing countries are expected to experience higher incomes, which they’ll use to buy more meat. For instance, China’s economy has grown tremendously and this is mirrored in the country’s meat consumption. The average person in 1960s China consumed less than 5kg a year. By the late 1980s, this had risen to 20kg, and in the last few decades, this has more than tripled to over 60kg.
The world simply cannot produce this much meat, nor should it. Plant-based proteins which replicate the nutritional value, texture, and even taste of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products will become more and more appealing as the technology improves. In the future, consumers should have access to cheaper and more “meat-like” plant-based protein, and this will be reflected in huge market growth. Simply put, real meat will turn into a luxury item while “fake” meat will be there to fill the void.
This shift in attitude is already going strong in consumer behavior. For instance, in early May, news emerged that Impossible Foods (a company at the forefront of the recent boom in fast-food meatless meat) was struggling to produce enough to meet the growing demand for their products. Their products are now sold at Burger King, White Castle, as well as chains like Red Robin. Sales of such plant-based proteins grew 10% in 2018, while the conventional meat industry grew just 2%, according to a recent report from the Good Food Institute.
The 67-page report from UBS also outlines various other avenues for market growth in agriculture as a result of digitization. For instance, UBS forecasts that by 2030, smart farming and online food delivery will grow by 16%, seed treatment by 13%, and seed science by 9%.
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