Entry of big food into alternative meat industry threatens survival of small players: IPES-Food report

GLOBAL – Big meat and food conglomerates have been investing heavily in the alternative protein market recently and are now threatening to push out smaller producers of meat alternatives, according to a report from IPES-Food.

The reports detail that Meat companies such as JBS and Cargill have invested heavily in plant-based proteins and laboratory-grown meats in recent years and bought out several smaller companies to upscale the production.

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The animal meat conglomerates are joining other food giants that already control about 80% of the meat alternative market, including Kellogg’s, which owns the MorningStar Farms brand, and Conagra, which owns Gardein.

Even as the meat industry downplays the value of fake meat while also facing pressure which is growing from climate scientists and other experts to dramatically reduce meat consumption, IPES-Food reported that some big meat companies may be looking for other revenue streams.

Philip Howard, the lead author of the IPES-Food report said: “These companies have gotten big and powerful by using every strategy they can. With most of these products, you won’t see the parent company’s name on the label.”

They are covering their bases because this is an area that’s growing very quickly and people buying meat alternative products “may not realize they’re supporting those big companies.”

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Additionally, the IPES-Food report said that the meat substitute market is predicted to grow rapidly, from US$4.2billion in sales in 2020 to US$28billion in 2025.

Much of that growth will come from the already robust plant-based meat industry, but also from several conglomerates that have also invested hundreds of millions to develop lab-grown meat, meat produced in bioreactors without the need to slaughter animals.

The IPES-Food report continued to put concern on how corporates’ control, threatens to undermine gains from reducing reliance on animals by replicating some of the problems of the traditional meat industry, including mass-produced, monocultured ingredients and energy-consuming methods.

With big companies likely to consolidate control of the meat alternative industry, Howard worries the landscape will resemble the US craft beer industry.

In a case where the US, which has nearly 9,000 breweries, the vast majority are tiny and can’t distribute beer beyond their neighborhood bars, and alcohol conglomerates have snapped up most of the larger craft brewers.

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Howard reported that It is going to be very difficult for those small and medium-sized firms to stay in business as economic systems reinforce the position of the rich and powerful while smaller producers find it very difficult to break into the market.

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