• Plant-based meats on supermarket shelf.
    Plant-based meats on supermarket shelf.
  • Food Frontier plant-based meat trends graph
    Food Frontier plant-based meat trends graph

The volume and types of plant-based meats in Australia have changed significantly over the past three years.

What’s clear is that a new food category has emerged from one or two niche players to create an industry that’s here to stay.

In major retail in Australia, the plant-based meat category has gone from fewer than five brands made by Australian/New Zealand businesses in 2017, to more than 30.

There has also been a three-fold increase in the number of products on shelves over the last few years, from less than 90 to just under 300.

According to data from the independent alternative protein think tank Food Frontier, the types of products are shifting too. Consumers are looking for convenience, which has seen a significant increase in the supply of formats like schnitzels and nuggets, through to mince and meatballs, and to deli slices, snacking and finger foods.

Consumer interest in products that can be incorporated into a variety of dishes has seen more versatile, functional formats hit shelves, like beef-style strips and chunks, and whole cut style—although there are still fewer than 10 products of each in-market.

The findings are the results of audits of major supermarkets in Melbourne and Sydney in mid-2023.

Food Frontier plant-based meat trends graph

Food Frontier CEO, Dr Simon Eassom, says the findings show that the Australian plant-based meat market is still evolving and maturing.

“We know that the early adopters of plant-based meats in Australia and around the world are flexitarians – they are the cohort, used to centre-of-plate proteins or protein-based dishes, that are now looking for healthier alternatives to those conventional protein sources and for products that mimic what they’re used to buying.   

“When plant-based options first appeared on our shelves in Australia, about six years ago, they were mostly in the form of utility foods: sausages and burgers. There were probably too many manufacturers all providing the same style of product and, rightly so, customers have voted with their tastebuds and their wallets. This category has seen zero increase and some contraction in the number of manufacturers, with the lion’s share of the market now dominated by a few strong brands.

“The data gathered by Food Frontier indicates that other formats that can be incorporated into a much wider range of dishes are gaining favour and manufacturers are responding accordingly.”

Overall, the number of plant-based meat products available in Australia peaked at about 350 in early 2023 and, as expected in new food categories, there has since been consolidation.

“We expect the category to continue to evolve and we wouldn’t be surprised to see further changes by way of company integration, and product formulations. This is a food industry that’s continuing to innovate and adapt to consumer tastes and budgets, plus the availability of more sophisticated ingredients will help manufacturers improve products to meet expectations around taste and texture as well as price.”

Australian and New Zealand brands now make up two-thirds of products in major retail in Australia – up from less than half in 2019 – with international brands that trail-blazed plant-based meats still holding their own: brands such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Fry Family Food.

Ernst & Young have forecast the global plant-based meat market to reach at least US$57 billion by 2030. Additionally, CSIRO has estimated that the plant-based products category in Australia will reach $6 billion by 2030.

Food Frontier will release its third state of the industry report in mid-2024 which will provide up-to-date insights into the value of the industry and current projections.

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