Is the Covid-19 Pandemic Accelerating a Shift to Vegan Food?

The appetite for plant-based meat alternatives is growing. The market is expected to be worth $27.9 billion globally by 2025, according to a MarketsandMarkets report.

North America and Europe are currently the top markets, but increased demand from Asia Pacific and South American countries is expected to drive sales, the report said. In Thailand, one company is turning jackfruit into dishes like BBQ pulled pork. Bloomberg’s Randy Tan-tong-Knight explains.

“Some of the more common plant-based meats are made from pea or soy proteins. But we also have plants-based meat that’s made from jackfruit. The huge, spiky fruit has many small bulbs with yellow flesh inside its shell. When it’s ripe it’s kind of sweet. When it’s still unripe, it has no discernible flavor. And it has a texture that kind of imitates the consistency of real meat, which makes it perfect for a meat substitute for dishes like barbecued pulled pork.”

Randy says the trend is catching on rapidly in Thailand, fueled by social media.

“Every year during the 9th lunar month, which usually falls sometime in October, Thailand celebrates the vegetarian festival when observers like me give up eating animal products for nine days. And many food manufacturers, restaurants and street food vendors come up with new menu items to serve the vegetarian crowds. We see dishes that look like they’ve been cooked with real meat. But in fact, they’re not. That’s because these meats are made from plants.”

David Yeung, the founder and CEO of the Green Monday group says the pandemic is accelerating this shift to more plant-based eating.

“I think globally and particularly here in Asia, I think this year, 2020 has been kind of the ironically, the breakthrough year for plant-based and for alternative milk and alternative meats altogether. People finally understand that we have a food crisis, the need for alternatives. And that’s the reason why I think both the consumer side and also the investment community and also the entrepreneurial community have really accelerated over the last eight to 10 months.”

David says the plant-based movement is going mainstream.

“We see alternative meats now being featured on the menu of mainstream fast food chains, restaurants, cafes, and that’s happening around the world. Major chains that every day they’re serving millions or even tens of millions of customers, when they bring this to the menu and become kind of a permanent section or permanent choice for consumers, I think that is really the ultimate evidence that plant-based movement has arrived and it’s definitely is going mainstream. You don’t need to be a vegan to consume alternative meats. Everyone from the most hardcore meat eater to people who want to reduce, this becomes a choice for them. So, I see the demand for plant-based products really skyrocketing because we have gone from just a fringe movement with a tiny, tiny demographic to now everyone who wants to be fit, who cares about wellness, who cares about the environment. They are all part of this movement.”

David says there are key differences between the alternative meat space in Asia than in other parts of the world.

“In North America, in Europe, in some of the other parts of the world, usually animal welfare or reduction or elimination of animal cruelty is one of the drivers for consumers. In Asia, I think people are much more that much more lifestyle driven. What are the hip brands? What are the hip trends? What is the new aspirational lifestyle or items? So how to market this to the consumers? The approach is indeed quite different. And then also I think that the demand from the taste buds or taste profile standpoint, honestly, I think is probably even higher.”

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