AUSTRALIA – Australia has witnessed a significant surge in plant-based meat product consumption over the past three years, with data from independent alternative protein think tank Food Frontier revealing remarkable growth.

The findings, based on audits of major supermarkets in Melbourne and Sydney conducted in mid-2023, showcased shifts in both the volume and variety of plant-based offerings available to consumers.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Simon Eassom, CEO of Food Frontier, highlighted the trends, challenges, and future prospects of the plant-based meat sector in Australia.

According to Dr. Eassom, Australian consumers of plant-based meat are becoming more discerning about the quality of products and are seeking a wider variety of formats.

In addition, the plant-based meat category in major retail outlets in Australia has witnessed a significant transformation, growing from fewer than five brands in 2017 to more than 30, reflecting a three-fold increase in the number of products on shelves.

Since early 2023, the number of plant-based meat products in Australia has peaked at around 350.

Dr. Eassom pointed out that while there has been internal competition within the broader food industry in Australia, there has not been a unilateral incentive for manufacturers to acknowledge their environmental footprint.

However, he anticipated a future increase in marketing and communication strategies focusing on the environmental credentials of plant-based products, supported by proof points on packaging.

Despite Australia and its South Pacific neighbors experiencing the impacts of climate change firsthand, Dr. Eassom noted that the focus in consumers’ minds around diet and food choices is more health-oriented than sustainability-driven.

He emphasized that various Australian states are beginning to form a more explicit focus within ministerial portfolios on sustainability and environmental issues.

The Australian food industry has its unique characteristics, shaped by diverse influences from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and indigenous heritage, along with close connections to local farming and agriculture.

Dr. Eassom highlighted that the plant-based meat market in Australia developed later than in European countries, leading to an initial lack of variety and quality.

“The balance between international and domestic brands in the Australian plant-based meat market is influenced by product quality, pricing dynamics, and the procurement and profit strategies of the retail sector.“

Dr. Eassom noted that international brands are shifting focus from retail to foodservice, supplying quick-service restaurants and fast-food outlets.

The first phase of plant-based meat industry growth in Australia has focused on producing attractive meat analogs appealing to flexitarians.

There is a growing interest in versatile products that can be integrated into various dishes, and convenience has fueled an increase in the availability of plant-based meat formats such as schnitzels, nuggets, mince, meatballs, deli slices, and finger foods.

Australia is also witnessing innovation around diversification of protein ingredient supply, with several precision fermentation companies working toward sustainable ingredient production.

Dr. Eassom highlighted the emergence of over 30 companies in Australia involved in cellular agriculture, plant protein ingredient supply, and manufacturing, contributing to solutions for sustainable and plant-based alternatives.

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