The US test run of the McPlant burger was quietly shelved in August 2022, and Beyond Meat’s stock has now dipped nearly 70%. In 2019 Beyond Meat was valued at over $10bn but today is valued at just over $900m. This may be the beginning of the busting of the bubble of plant-based meats, which peaked in 2019 but now it seems the novelty has worn off. In August, Beyond Meat laid off 4% of its workforce after a slowdown in sales growth. 

On the other side, plant-based milks are still performing well, perhaps because animal milk alternatives have been around for much longer, lactose intolerance has driven many Americans to choose non-dairy milk, and price parity with the animal versions is better.  

Perhaps due to the increase of campaigning for reducetarianism or flexitarianism instead of veganism, the number of Americans who are vegetarian or vegan has not changed much over recent years. Recent research concluded that very few US households who bought meat alternatives identified as vegan, and the average consumer of plant-based substitutes still spent a standard amount of money on real meat products every month. This suggests that fake meats have not had much of an impact on the meat industry yet. The business model of companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods of trying to make plant-based meat as close as possible to animal meat may not be as sound as some may have thought, perhaps because of the assumption customers are only interested in taste and texture may be wrong. Many might be more interested in what they perceive is more “natural”, while others are more interested in supporting animal agriculture and preventing the vegan world to materialise. Equally, the idea that targeting reducetarians/flexitarians rather than vegans is a better strategy to move to a plant-based food system may prove to be wrong, as it could well be that the former are only following a temporary fashion and will revert to the old meat-eating habits after a short while (as they do not have any ethical imperative to stop them doing so).

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.