The coronavirus pandemic’s effects can be felt everywhere, even on our food habits. Most countries are facing a meat shortage with slaughterhouses finding it challenging to carry on with rules of hygiene and social distancing in place. With beef in short supply, plant-based protein companies are happy to present an alternative in the form of faux meat. Most supermarket chains like Kroger and Costco are running out of meat products, and fast food chains like Wendy’s Co have stopped hamburgers at some locations.
Sensing a huge opportunity, companies in the business of manufacturing plant-based meat are pushing to occupy the empty shelves at supermarkets and grocery stores.
The US sales of plant-based meat substitutes increased 200% by mid-April compared to the same period last year, according to The Financial Times. The US sales of conventional meat increased by 30% during that same period. And Impossible Foods Inc’s ( a faux meat company)chief financial officer, David Lee, says his company’s supply chain has remained uninterrupted by the virus.
Soy-based burger maker Impossible Foods Inc. and pea-based meat imitator Beyond Meat Inc. are offering their products across the US. And shoppers are willing to try out these plant-based burgers, according to the companies and market data.
And surprisingly, the faux meat packages are seeing a wider acceptance as pandemic driven shoppers pile up their pantry stocks with packaged goods. Americans purchased 5.3 million units of fresh-meat alternative products from retailers in the eight weeks ended April 25 -- three times higher than the amount from a year earlier, according to data from analytics firm Nielsen.
Impossible Foods’ burgers will be sold in more than 1,700 Kroger Co. stores nationwide. It is an excellent opportunity for faux meat companies to turn consumer tastes and aggressively market their products as sustainable healthy alternatives. “I think it truly is an opportunity,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus says in a report. “People will be more willing to embrace plant alternatives.” Beyond Meats has made a Feed a Million pledge and will distribute over one million Beyond burgers to food banks, frontline workers, and organizations in need.
The sales of faux meat and such substitutes are still a fraction of the 1 billion units of fresh beef and 952 million units of fresh chicken that moved during the same period, according to data. Despite some shortages and concerns about the state of slaughterhouses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the country maintains an “adequate domestic supply of meat, eggs, and dairy products to meet immediate demand. Production has not halted altogether, and cold storage commodities remain robust.”
But the sales of substitute meat products show a gradual shift in consumer perceptions. Impossible Foods Chief Executive Officer Pat Brown said in a press conference that at the moment there were indications that people were shifting to their products due to the pandemic. But they had some anecdotal data the coronavirus spread has also had a different impact. “A spotlight illuminating what’s actually involved in producing meat by slaughtering animals” is “bad news” for the meat industry," he said.
Added to this are reports that the opening of slaughterhouses has led to the spread of coronavirus in and around that region at twice the rate of national average. Even where the slaughterhouses are located outside major populations centers, the infection rates are high, indicating it has reached rural centers too.
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