Export Q & A: The Growing Market for Meatless, Dairy Less, and Plant-Based Products

A summary of the countries with the biggest and fastest growing markets for plant-based, meatless, dairy less products.

Q: I am reviewing some of the Buyer Profiles for upcoming Food Export Buyer’s Missions. I noticed in many cases there is more interest now in meatless (and dairy less) solutions, meat substitutes, plant-based proteins, processed meat substitutes, textured vegetable protein, tofu, veggie burgers and textured vegetable proteins. Clearly the landscape in the post Covid food market has changed.  What can you share about which countries are the biggest and fastest growing, what are the brands and who are the players?   

A: Food Export is constantly conducing market studies of strategic destinations worldwide. This is done to ensure no opportunity is missed and all new opportunities and potential challenges are monitored. With the Covid 19 pandemic, we learned that certain dynamics in the food business changed quickly and significantly which included the closure of most foodservice which had an impact on the global economy and was felt by many U.S. exporters that had served those markets internationally. As a result, thousands of food delivery companies as well as the “cloud kitchens” which grew incredibly and the restaurants themselves started and kept businesses afloat by delivering food to consumers’ homes or elsewhere as customers could not eat and drink indoors in public places. 

It has also become clear through constant analysis that the global consumers attention toward healthier eating grew tenfold during the Covid 19 pandemic and will only continue to develop in the future. There was not one developed or developing market assessed which did not make that observation. In addition, much more attention is being paid to climate change and the affect that greenhouse gases have on our collective future, much of it from a global need for animal proteins which use a lot of resources and create a lot of waste.

All these developments are being manifested in the Buyer Profiles which are constantly being created now as we enter back into one-on-one meetings whether here in the U.S. or at overseas destinations. Something else Food Export (and the international trade community) learned during the pandemic was that export business transactions develop at a much faster pace with higher quality results when introductions are made in person, and that means “Zoomless” as well. The highest quality communications generate the best results.    

The plant-based movement is much larger than food and now includes clothes, furniture, fabrics and more. Kind of like back to the future in that for hundreds of years that is what most people used, which included of course hemp which is now making a comeback itself. For food, technically what “plant based” means is that products that had historically been consumed as animal protein themselves such as a sausage or cheese wedge which has now been replaced by a substitute. People market potato chips as plant based too, but that is self-evident, so are blueberries and maple syrup. What we can survey here is the landscape of “Meat & Seafood Substitutes” globally to get an idea of what has developed and what the forecast may be. Special thanks as always to Euromonitor International for their excellent work in creating the knowledge base.

We learned that there are three components to how it is analyzed which other than aggregated in total include substitutes which have been chilled, are frozen and also shelf stable. Euromonitor describes this is the aggregation of shelf stable meat substitutes, chilled meat substitutes and frozen meat substitutes, as well as free from meat soy-based ready meals and other ready meals. Product types include vegetarian sausages, vegetarian burgers, bean burgers etc. typically made of Quorn mycoprotein, tofu, soy, or texturized vegetable protein.

Meat & Seafood Substitutes
Euromonitor is forecasting that retail sales of meat & seafood substitutes should reach $6.2 billion in 2022. That is an aggregated total of chilled, frozen and shelf stable food. That represents growth of 99% since 2018 or nearly $3.1 billion. The U.S. is by far the largest market with sales of $1.8 billion, or 29% of the global total. The U.S. period growth since 2018 is 104% but not nearly as high as many other markets, although the largest.

New food trends usually start in the U.S. and Canada as well as Western Europe and this similar here as far as current market size. The top ten markets after the U.S. include U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Italy, France, Sweden, Brazil, Australia, and Israel. The latter might be a slight surprise given their smaller population.  In Israel, two brands dominate the sales landscape. Tivall from Nestlé SA has a 53% brand share and another brand, Soglowek from Soglowek Nahariya Ltd has s market share of 23.6%.

Tivall makes corn schnitzel, vegetables, vegetarian sausages, and soy stews. Soglowek’s brand name is one of the most recognizable and respected brands in Israel. Their OU certified products are all meatless and include vegetarian kebabs, wieners, schnitzel, chicken, burgers, nuggets, and franks. They are both on a slight downward trend as Beyond Meat from Beyond Meat Inc. came from “0%” market share as late as 2019 and now has taken 6.3% of the global market. Interesting to note that there are no Asian markets anywhere near the top, and other than Brazil no Latin American markets either.

But the growth rate shows a different pattern, as despite the value many markets have much higher growth than the larger markets. The highest growth markets in the last five years are led by Japan and Poland at both over 1000%, Czech Republic, Argentina, Chile, Hong Kong, and South Korea, all well over 100% growth between 2018 and 2022.

Euromonitor has forecast of retail sales of total meat and seafood substitutes to 2026. They predict retail sales should reach $10.3 billion. That represents growth of 66.2% or $4.1 billion from 2022. The U.S. is forecast to remain the largest market with retail sales of $2.6 billion, or about 25% share of the market, which is down a little from 2022, naturally as other markets begin to grow. The future is clearly very bright for this industry. The U.S. growth rate is 38% or $713.9 million, so it will cool off a bit but still is formidable.

The top ten markets show some shift as Israel and Australia move down the list, overtaken by additional Western European countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain. Japan is the top market in Asia, ranked 17th in the forecast. And again, other than Brazil no Latin American markets in the top 25 markets. High growth rates in the forecast include Poland, Brazil, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, and Japan. They are all between 100% and 200% growth by 2026.

The top retail brand in the world is Quorn. Quorn is a meat substitute product originating in the U.K. and sold primarily in Europe, but available in 14 countries. The brand is owned by parent company Monde Nissin. Quorn is sold as both a cooking ingredient and as a meat substitute used in a range of prepackaged meals. In 2018 their global share was 9.9% and it has since dropped to 7.5%, likely because of all the competition from start-ups such as Beyond Meat (Beyond Meat Inc.), who’s share has grown from 2.2% in 2018 to 7.2% now. Morningstar (Kellogg Co.) had a 9.8% share in 2018 and is now at 6.6%. In addition to Beyond Meat’s rise in market share the established brands now have Impossible (Impossible Foods Inc.) whose share has grown from “0%” in 2018 to an impressive 6.2% today, mostly in the U.S.  

Private label products have a 9.8% share second only to Quorn but likely dozens of companies, and the “others” share is 36.6% which is indicative of intense competition from smaller companies. This also tells us that perhaps another Beyond Meat or Impossible will be gaining exponential market share in the future.           

Chilled Meat and Seafood Substitutes
Euromonitor reports that the 2022 market size at retail for chilled meat and seafood substitutes will be $3.5 billion. That is 56.4% of the aggregated total which means chilled products are the largest market segment. The U.S. is again the largest market for the products with sales of $940.8 million or about 27% of the total which is a little lower than the aggregated total. Other top markets include the same from Western Europe, and Japan has ascended while Brazil and Israel drop down considerably. Most of those top brands are actually frozen foods.  

Growth in this sector since 2018 is 146.5% or $2.1 billion. High growth markets in the period growth include Japan, and this is not a typo, whose market had grown 12,847.2%. This is what made them appear near the top markets in the 2022 total. Poland is also over 1000% and followed by the U.S. with growth of 366.7% and a period total in USD with $739.2 which is by far the largest margin. Czech Republic, Canada, Portugal and Norway also have growth of over 100%.

It seems that the dominating size of the U.S. market makes both Impossible and Beyond Meat the global leader. With chilled products the two companies have a 21.8% market share. After them and with smaller shares but still in the millions in revenue are German food manufacturer Rügenwalder Mühle, which has operated in the plant-based market for just under a decade, announced its revenue has increased to 212 million Euros, thanks to trend for plant based products in Europe. The company plans to increase capacity for vegan and vegetarian production with a focus on climate protection and responsible consumption.

Euromonitor reports that Beyond Meat can now be found in Hong Kong and South Korea in Asia, Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine in Eastern Europe and Israel (a very small share based on what we now know). They can also be purchased overseas in Canada, as well as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and U.K. in Europe.  Impossible Foods on the other hand can be found only in Hong Kong and Canada according to their brand share reporting.

Danish multinational Monde Nissin is 4th in market share with their Quorn products, and the 5th largest share is owned by Nestlé SA, who markets a brand called Garden Gourmet/Hälsans Kök, also with Danish origins. Field Roast and Lightlife are 2 brands sold by Maple Leaf Foods Inc., and Yves Veggie Cuisine by the Hain Celestial Group Inc. round out the top 8 brands in the chilled meat and seafood substitute sector.  

Frozen Meat and Seafood Substitutes
According to Euromonitor the retail market sales for frozen meat and seafood substitutes will reach nearly $2.4 billion in 2022. That amount is about 39% of the aggregated total, so a strong 2nd place after the chilled category. That also represents growth of 60% or $891 million since 2018. The top markets are very similar to the overall and the chilled category since the value share is so high, and include the U.S., U.K. Israel, Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Italy, Canada, Denmark, and a surprise entry from Latin America – Argentina, rounding out the Top 10. The U.S. share is $935.8 million or about 39% of the total. The U.K. is $490 million, about half the value and market share and then it goes down significantly from there.

The older more established brands still hold court in market share and many those of us in the U.S. will recognize and perhaps even consume with some loyalty.  Kellogg has grown MorningStar Farms steadily since its acquisition over 20 years ago, and the brand now has the highest share and household penetration in the frozen vegetarian/vegan category with 16.5% in 2021. Quorn        from Monde Nissin Corp is 2nd with a share of 12.2%, and Gardein from ConAgra Brands Inc., with a 6.9% share, has just introduced in June, adding to a diverse collection of meat alternatives with seven new foods. Flexitarians, vegans, and vegetarians can now indulge in plant-based servings of bratwurst, Buffalo wings, spicy chick’n fillets.

Linda McCartney brand from Hain Celestial Ireland and is part of the Hain Celestial Group is in 4th place with a market share of 3.9%. Other brands include Tivall from Nestlé SA, Boca from the Kraft Heinz Co, and Anamma from Orkla Group, one of the oldest Swedish food manufacturing businesses who primarily serves the Baltics but has a multinational reach.  Most of their products are made from soy protein, and offer burgers, sausages, and mince, to vegan balls, falafels, pulled vegan and even moldable mince.

Shelf Stable Meat & Seafood Substitutes:
The shelf stable market is by far the smallest of the three, forecast to total $558.4 million in 2022.  The top markets include Germany, South Africa, Romania, Brazil, Taiwan, and Japan. The U.S. oddly enough is not ranked as there is no retail sales value attached to it. In fact, there are a number of developed markets that do not show any sales. That included China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea among others. This usually means the market is too small to track yet and will need time to develop. There are a number of markets that have just passed $1 million so a lot of value growth in the future no doubt. 

That $558.4 million represents very strong growth of 49.4% and $184.6 million since 2018.  Japan leads the high growth markets with 334% followed by Sweden (125%), Bulgaria (115%), and Spain (101.2%), Germany (95.9% and Portugal (93.7%).  By 2026 the market for shelf stable meat and seafood substitutes is forecast to reach $774.8 million, growth of 38.7% and $216.3 since 2022. High growth markets in the forecast include Spain, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, France, and Japan, all over 40% growth between 2022 and 2016.

The top global brands are Knorrox Soya Mince from Unilever Group which appears to be made in Zambia and helps explain why South Africa is the 2nd largest market after Germany.  The Knorrox range of products includes Stock cubes, stock powder, Economy soup and Soya mince. They have 13% global market share. The 2nd largest market share goes to Alanutra from the Alnatura Produktions- und Handels GmbH. is a chain of organic food supermarkets and producer of organic food headquartered in Darmstadt, Hesse in Germany. They focus on sustainable food products. Vegie Delights from Australasian Conference Association Ltd has the 3rd largest share and we may know them as “vegemite”. The appeal of shelf stable meat and seafood substitutes seems limited to these markets as well as Japan. 

There are of course other types of meatless and vegan products out there, but this is the dominant category. Many companies have been producing these products for many years and have a competitive advantage in exporting, supply chain and temperature management as well as marketing and R&D expertise. But it is clear there is plenty of room for increase competition because the growth in these categories has been strong and more and more consumers will be stocking their freezers and shelves with them in the future to not only eat healthy but to help the environment.