Market & Trends

Continued Decline in US Meat Consumption is “Long-Term Industry Disruption” Creating Significant Opportunity

The United States has witnessed a steady decline in meat consumption for the second consecutive year. Retail sales data from IRI Worldwide reveals that 2023 marks the second consecutive year of declining meat purchase volumes.

As of October 2023, overall meat sales by volume in US grocery have dipped 4% year-over-year and 6% over the past two years. This decline is evident across various meat categories, including a 10% year-over-year drop in pork sales volumes, a 10% year-over-year drop in seafood sales volumes, and a 13% drop in turkey sales volumes. 

While plant-based meat alternatives have also experienced a decline in sales volumes amidst the current economic climate, the broader shift away from animal proteins has presented increased opportunities for other plant-based food categories. Nick Cooney, Managing Partner at Lever VC states, “The continued gradual decline in meat consumption in the United States is a long-term industry disruption that creates significant opportunity.” 

supermarket with PB products
Image courtesy Beyond Animal

Numerous categories within the plant-based food space, including plant-based meals, eggs, seafood, butter, creamers, beverages, cheese, and desserts, have posted impressive double-digit year-over-year sales growth in the United States in 2022.

The ramifications of the ongoing drop in meat sales volumes are evident in the traditional animal agriculture industry. Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in the US, has responded by announcing the closure of four chicken slaughter facilities, amounting to roughly 10% of its total capacity. Smithfield Foods, the number one pork supplier in the US, has also recently closed one of its pork processing plants in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Global perspective

While these trends are particularly pronounced in North America, they are not exclusive to the region. The broader global context showcases similar shifts in the United Kingdom and Germany, where per capita meat consumption has reached historic lows. Meat sales in the Netherlands have also been on the decline for nine consecutive quarters, experiencing a 13% drop compared to the beginning of 2019.

The pig population in the UK has reached a 12-year low, reflecting the impact on conventional farming practices. In response to escalating beef and chicken prices, retailers are even reducing the quantity of meat in ready meals. 

© Swing Kitchen

Growth prospects for plant-based

The landscape looks promising for the global plant-based meat market, with recent reports predicting growth from $7.5 billion in 2021 to $15.8 billion in 2028. Additionally, the Natural Marketing Institute’s annual Health and Wellness Trends Database reports that 4 out of 10 consumers are actively trying to reduce their consumption of meat, and a national survey this year found that nearly 3 out of 4 respondents were “very or extremely curious” about foods that had had benefits for gut health and cognitive health, presenting an opportunity for plant-based food producers to leverage the health benefits of plant-based ingredients. 

Cooney emphasizes the far-reaching impact of the gradual decline in meat consumption across major economies, commenting, “These long-term trends are starting to spread to an increasing number of countries, and the plant-based food brands in Lever VC’s global portfolio have together grown sales by over 50% year-over-year in 2023, reflecting the ongoing opportunity for companies in these and other alternative and upgraded protein categories that provide great-tasting products at prices that work for consumers.”

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