Plant-Based Meat Menu 2021: A disappointing end to a meaty year
We tracked more than 230 new product and market initiatives in 2021:
According to our findings, there were 141 instances of companies either entering new markets or expanding within their existing markets during the year, with North America and Europe being the most active markets accounting for over 70% of recorded instances on average.
Market distribution activity saw marked pick-up in Q2 with most plant-based meat brands strengthening their home presence in the US. The gradual increase was triggered by the recovery in the US restaurant industry, which saw a 32% YoY increase in customer transactions in March (still down 6% compared to March 2019), driven by lifted restrictions and increased vaccinations. According to the NPD group, plant-based protein shipments to restaurants increased by 60% YoY in April (and 16% above pre-pandemic April 2019), which also encouraged further distribution activity in the US that peaked in June 2021.
However, towards the latter part of the year, the activityslowed down possibly owing to slower recovery in dine-in activity, which was 34% lower in August 2021, compared to the pre-pandemic August 2019.
Distribution network activity in the US slows down post August
By Q4, players seem to have shifted their focus outside the US, as foodservice channels slowed down. According to SPINS data, in the four weeks to October 3 2021, sales of plant-based meat products in the US had fallen by -1.8% YoY, against strong comps in 2020.
Several major players such as Beyond Meat and Maple Leaf recorded a drop in 3Q 2021 earnings, with Beyond Meat issuing a revenue warning as well, ahead of its earnings. Beyond Meat revealed plans to increase its international presence with the aim of partially offsetting the US sales decline, resulting from the spread of the COVID-19 Delta strain and labor shortages in the US retail sector.
Out of the 93 new product launches observed in the year, almost 40% accounted for plant-based beef products, followed by plant-based chicken and plant-based pork.
New product launches remained strong for the major part of 2021, with startups attempting to venture into less explored alternative meat categories such as chicken and pork. Plant-based chicken alternatives remained a popular choice for incumbents as well, where the likes of major players such as Nestle, Conagra Brands, Aldi, M&S, and Maple Leaf Foodsreleased chicken alternatives in Q2.
In the second half of the year, Beyond Meat released Beyond Chicken Tenders followed by Impossible Foods plant-based nuggets, alongside a flock of startups who had similar releases, such as LIVEKINDLY, Alpha Foods, SIMULATE, Heura.
In Q3, Beyond Meat, Plantly, Hormel Foods, and Trader Joe’s launched plant-based pepperoni (plant-based pork) through foodservice channels. The peak in interest can be traced to Q2, where the NPD group reported an increase in plant-based meat analogs to pizza operators; where shipments of plant-based chicken and plant-based Italian sausage recorded 98% YoY and 72% YoY increases, respectively.
Out of more than 50 companies that were active in the industry, Beyond Meat accounted for more than 40% of the distribution activity.
Beyond Meat started strong this year by launching its plant-based burgers and meatballs across 7,000 and 5,000 CVS outlets in the US respectively. The partnership Beyond Meat signed with Yum! Brands in February had a positive effect on its foodservice distribution, where in July, Pizza Hut began offering three new Beyond Meat toppings available exclusively at Delivery Hut locations. Under the partnership Beyond Meat and Yum! Brands will collaborate to create plant-based menu items featuring Beyond Meat products to KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.
However, Beyond Meat faced a roadblock in 2021 when Dunkin' announced plans to remove the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich from its national menu, due to the low demand for the menu item. Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwiches were limited to only 100 Dunkin’ locations from the initial 9,000+ locations.
Several non-US collaborations, such as an initiative with Tesco to launch six vegan frozen ready meals under its Wicked Kitchen brand across the UK, helped Beyond Meat to more than double its international revenue in 9M 2021; resulting in a 19.4% YoY revenue growth for the period (US revenue grew by only 0.7% YoY). Despite the top-line growth, Beyond Meat reported a USD 97.2 million loss from operations for the period, compared to a loss of USD 24.8 million a year ago, weighed down by a 51% YoY growth in selling, general and administrative expenses.
As of September 2021, the company had a presence in over 66,000 retail locations and over 62,000 foodservice locations.
Impossible Foods hasprovenitself to be a worthy competitor for Beyond Meat despite its slower start in the early days. The startup had a large rollout for its Impossible Sausage in US supermarkets, where the product was made available across Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Wegmans, and Stop & Shop, totaling to at least 4,500 potential locations. In April, Impossible Foods, focused on expanding its reach outside the US, where it launched the Impossible Deluxe Burger as a ready-to-eat meal at 7-Eleven stores in over 300 locations across Singapore. This was the company's first convenience store debut in Asia. More than six months after its debut in Asia, it launched within grocery stores in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Impossible Foods was one of the few bright spots in the industry amidst the recent slowdown, where the company outpaced the next 10 plant-based meat producers combined in US dollar sales for the 13-week period up to end-November 2021 compared to a year ago, according to research conducted by IRI research. Further, according to Nielsen, Impossible Foods gained 270 basis points in market share in the four weeks to September 10, ahead of its main rival Beyond Meat, which lost 60 basis points.
As of November 2021, Impossible Foods’ distribution network extended to more than 40,000 food service locations and 22,000 retail locations from 17,000 foodservice locations and 8,000 retail locations in December 2020.
The plant-based food group LIVEKINDLY had sevaral large product rollouts outside the US, for its Fry’s, Oumph! and LikeMeat brands. The group strengthened its presence in Europe with the launch of its products in almost 1,000 Iceland stores in the UK, and having debuted in Germany with the Edeka Group, which extends to 4,100 store locations. Oumph! brand also debuted in Australia with the rollout in Woolworths.
Kelloggs, in June partnered with Sodexo North America to make available its plant-based burger patties, the “Incogmeato” of MorningStar Farms in more than 3,000 locations in North America. Sodexo already serves MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean burger.
Wicked Kitchen, a collaboration between Tesco and Wicked Healthy, launched over 20 products in 2,500 outlets in Kroger in July. The brand also collaborated with Beyond Meat to launch six vegan frozen-ready meals across the UK. Wicked Healthy was founded by brothers Derek and Chad Sarno in 2016 as a platform to collaborate with other corporations to promote a plant-based lifestyle following their successful launch of Good Catch, a plant-based seafood startup, in 2016.
Sign-up for a free trial
Gain access to all industry hubs, market maps, research tools, and more