Meat- and Fish Alternatives

Report Explores Practical Approaches to Achieving Price Parity for Plant-Based Meat

New Food Innovation, an organisation acting as an accelerator for the food industry, has published a new report titled “Plant-based Meats – The Battle For Price Parity”.

Authored by food scientist, chef, and author Anthony Warner, the report finds that plant-based meat is still 67% more expensive than animal meat in the UK. It explains how this is a major obstacle preventing consumers from switching to more sustainable options, with the cost of living crisis and rising inflation exacerbating the problem.

Warner then discusses how the cost of plant-based meat could be reduced, suggesting an overhaul of supply chains. While soy or pea protein is generally far cheaper than meat, the ingredients added to plant protein to make meat alternatives — such as flavourings, fats, and gelling agents — can cost more than the protein itself.

Plant-based meat production also has extra steps, such as hydrating TVP and making emulsions. Some of these steps require special equipment, and each one has labour and wastage costs. Furthermore, complex ingredient lists are off-putting to some consumers, who may view meat alternatives as highly processed.

Squeaky Bean expands frozen range
© Squeaky Bean

Reducing ingredient costs

While economies of scale may eventually bring down costs, high prices currently make it difficult for companies to get large enough volumes to scale up, creating a Catch-22 situation. In the meantime, cutting the cost of ingredients may be the best solution. For example, creating a single flavour blend rather than using multiple different flavours could cut the cost of flavourings by 40-60% while reducing complexity. Developing enzymic solutions to help with gelling could allow for the removal of methylcellulose, another expensive ingredient, while providing a cleaner label.

Improving shelf lives could also allow for cost savings, as could using less processed protein concentrates. Making increased use of sidestreams, for example as feedstock for the fermentation industry, could lower costs even further. The animal product industries already do this, with the sale of byproducts such as skin, feathers, and whey bringing down the prices of meat and dairy.

Finally, shortening supply chains by growing crops within the UK could cut costs while also improving sustainability. Soy, wheat, lupin, and fava beans could all be grown within the country.

Prolupin
©Prolupin

Practical approaches to cutting costs

With Mintel data (quoted in the report) suggesting that 73% of consumers are not willing to pay extra for plant-based meat, a reduction in costs is vital. Many retailers across mainland Europe have dropped the prices of some of their plant-based foods to achieve parity with animal products, including Lidl, Salling Group, Kaufland, BILLA, and Jumbo. In some cases, this has led to a significant increase in sales of plant-based products. However, UK supermarkets have yet to do the same.

“Plant-based meat is currently more expensive than animal-derived products in UK retail, and that is a problem,” comments Warner to vegconomist this morning. “Unless these products can get to price parity, and preferably move beyond, they will never take significant market share from meat. This report explores why price parity is so difficult, and provides developers with some practical approaches to reducing costs. It also identifies some key areas of research that are required.”

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