For some time now, the leather industry has been experiencing a steady change in demand towards new, wholly plant-based materials. Traditional animal leather is increasingly competing with a steadily growing number of innovative plant-based alternatives with identical properties.
According to an analysis by Market Research Hub, the traditional leather industry is now being redefined by an increase in vegan and sustainable materials. The authors of the report find that the decision of many large corporations to use alternative materials is a response to criticism of the meat and livestock industries, which are inevitably closely linked to the leather industry. Tesla, for example, recently announced its intention to become 100 percent leather-free, and a number of automotive companies have the same ambition.
In comparison to the widespread criticism of the effects of the meat industry and animal agriculture, the report says the leather industry receives less negative attention, although all sectors are directly related and equally responsible for social and environmental damage.
As the tanning process of traditional leather production releases hazardous chemicals and gases, including lead, chromium, arsenic, and carcinogenic arylamine, more companies in industrialised countries such as the US and the UK are faced with strict regulations which have led to the closure of several tanneries.
Animal welfare organisations such as PETA and are constantly advocating for the widespread use of plant-based materials as a substitute for leather. Meanwhile, with product innovations on the rise, there is a growing market for plant-based leather alternatives, and companies can choose from a wide range of products made from bananas and coconut, pineapple, mushrooms, apples, or teak leaves. In addition, more and more manufacturers are looking for ways to manufacture biodegradable materials which are softer and more water-resistant than conventional leather.
According to experts, the vegan leather market is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the future, reaching a market volume of 85 billion US dollars by 2025.