No, consumers aren’t shunning plant-based meat for the real thing

The cost-of-living crisis is contributing to the plant-based slowdown. As consumers tighten the purse strings, they’re less likely to splash out on plant-based meat alternatives – which often come with premium price tags.  

So what are they eating instead? When consumers are trying to cut costs, are they throwing cheaper meat-based products in the shopping basket instead? That’s not what retail insights suggest in the UK.

Swapping bacon for ‘facon’? Not necessarily

The last ten years have seen the plant-based meat market surge, in both product volume and sales. In the UK, this trend aligns with consumers cutting down on meat consumption for predominantly health and environmental reasons.

But that upwards trajectory started to slow around 2021. There’s been ‘pullback’ from meat-free as an alternatives category, explained Nathan Ward, business unit director at data and insights consultancy Kantar.

The trend is not specific to the UK alone. Globally, plant-based meat players – even category pioneers such as Beyond Meat​ – have been suffering.

That is not to say that amid cost-of-living pressures consumers are swapping out plant-based meat for meat. Kantar’s consumer data suggest that consumers are continuing to remove meat from their diets, they’re just going about it a different way.

The plant-based meat market is generally almost as expensive, if not as expensive as meat products, Ward told us during FoodNavigator’s recent Positive Nutrition Digital Summit. “Consumers are seeing that and putting different things into their [basket].