Season 3, Post 34: The future is meatless
If everyone in the UK were to eat just one more plant-based meal a week than they currently do, then this would be equivalent to taking 16m cars off the road, thereby reducing the country’s carbon emissions by over 8%. That’s a pretty good incentive for cutting down on meat consumption. An equally compelling one is that plant-based options which replicate meat are increasingly able to hold their own compared to the real thing. Take a look around any supermarket and you will observe a growing range of available products.
To see things at the cutting-edge, your author went one step further and spent a recent morning at the UK head office and development centre of Meatless Farm, a leading British and global player in the plant-based market that is currently privately owned. The company was founded in 2016 and now has offices spanning the world. Its products can be found major supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s as well as featuring widely across the food service industry in the likes of Pret, Leon and Itsu. In contrast to many of its peers, Meatless is differentiated in that it is vertically integrated, producing much of the (pea-based) protein that is present in its products. This gives it increased control of its supply chain and also permits for accelerated product innovation.
In addition to learning about the increasingly compelling case for plant-based consumption, your author tasted through a spread of products in the Meatless range, prepared by the company’s in-house professional chef. Experience-wise, the meat-free chicken breast (served here along with crispy potatoes, garlic aioli and romesco) was almost as close to the real thing as to be indistinguishable. The company’s meatless fajitas were also superb, a testament to the innovative ways in which plant-based products can be incorporated into meals. Little wonder then that research conducted by Meatless shows that 93% of its plant-based meals are currently eaten by non-vegans. Further, when questioned, 39% of UK consumers say that they plan to reduce their meat consumption over the next year.
This is only just the beginning. Over time, the quality (and range) of plant-based products offered by both Meatless and its peers will improve. Meatless gave the example of how its mince alternative had evolved from being soy-led to pea-led, with the number of ingredients reduced from 21 to 11, resulting in a tastier and healthier product. Plant-based alternatives may never replace the real thing totally, but that’s not the point: think of them as a complement. The vision of the founder of Meatless – and one which we are highly sympathetic towards – is that in the future consumers in supermarkets will pick a range of items from the ‘protein aisle.’ Plant-based products may well sit alongside traditional cuts of meat. Insects and cultured meat could also feature. Meat-only shopping (and diets) will almost certainly become a thing of the past.
9 September 2021
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
Photos taken by the author during his visit to Meatless Farm. All statistics cited in this piece courtesy of Meatless Farm.
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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