Australia’s plant-based meat industry is bigger than ever, but it’s only just the beginning.

Recent studies have revealed the increasing popularity of plant-based meat in Australia, as consumers turn towards healthy and environmentally-conscious meat alternatives to incorporate into their diet. While this industry is still gaining traction, current projections suggest it could become a major economic competitor in the next few years. 


Why choose plant-based meat?

Plant based meats are created using legumes, wheats, oilseeds and vegetables, combined with spices, seasonings and other plant derivatives. This results in a product that mimics the taste and texture of meat.

Studies have shown that incorporating plant-based foods into your diet can increase overall health and prevent cardiometabolic diseases. Compared to traditional animal meats, plant based meats are lower in fat and higher in fibre. 

According to a study from the University of Oxford, it is vital to address global carbon emissions linked to the food system in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees or less. Plant based products use significantly less greenhouse gases during production, and require less resources such as water and land.


Pea-based sausages


How big is the meat substitute industry? 

The consumption of plant-based meat has grown significantly over the last few years, and companies are increasing production to meet this demand. While there were less than five Australian brands offering plant-based meat products in 2017, this list has now grown to more than 30.

Additionally, the number of products available in supermarkets has increased three-fold in the same timeframe, jumping from less than 90 to almost 300.

In fact, Ernst & Young have estimated that the global plant-based meat market will reach US $57 billion by 2030. In Australia, the CSIRO has projected that plant-based products will reach a national value of $6 billion by 2030.


How has the market changed over time?

Food Frontier have conducted a number of studies in supermarkets across Melbourne and Sydney to determine the types of plant alternatives that customers enjoy the most. They found that more consumers are now favouring convenience, leading to an increase in products such as schnitzels, nuggets, meatballs and snack foods. Customers are leaning towards versatile products that can be used in a variety of meals.

Dr Simon Eassom, CEO of Food Frontier, explains that these results reflect the need to constantly expand as an industry.

“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 taste-buds and their wallets,” he says.

“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.”



What should consumers expect in the future?

A majority of the plant-based meat products now stocked in supermarkets come from Australian and New Zealand producers, who make up two-thirds of the national industry. This is reflective of a wider trend, as businesses embrace the meat alternative market and seek to break into the high value industry.

“We know that the early adopters of plant-based meats in Australia and around the world are flexitarians – they are a 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,” says Dr Eassom. 

“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.”

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