The Truth Behind Plant-Based Meat Market Projections

There is a thick line between projections and sales & interest.

Kristen Kazarian, Managing Editor

May 9, 2024

8 Min Read
Plant-Based Meat Market Trends
With today's food inflation, consumers have since turned to cheaper options like canned meats.Aamulya / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

While there was a surge in sales of plant-based meat products during the pandemic (2019-2020), plant-based meat and seafood sales fell significantly in 2023. Sales dropped 12% since 2022 and by 13% since 2021, standing at $1.2 billion in 2023. Unit sales growth of plant-based meat and seafood were down 19% on 2022 and 26% on 2021 at 215 million units.

Research firms like Global Market Insights, Research and Markets, Market.US, Spherical Insights, and Markets and Markets reveal the plant-based meat market shows growth to 2027 and up to 2032, though sales from these companies do not tell the same story. No two share the same outlook, yet none match what we are seeing in the market.

With sales and interest down from previous years, it’s hard to imagine that the market is seeing growth. For Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Hain Celestial, Lightlife (Maple Leaf Foods), MorningStar Farms (Kellanova), Gardein (Conagra), The Vegetarian Butcher (Unilever), Tyson, Perdue Foods, Nestlé, and more, there is a definite contradiction between market projections and actual product sales/profit.

These research firms have different projections for the plant-based meat category:

  • Markets and Markets: plant-based market to reach $15.7 billion by 2027

  • Research and Markets: plant-based market to reach $14.9 billion by 2027

  • Spherical Insights: plant-based market to reach $36.53 billion by 2032

  • Global Market Insights: plant-based market to exceed $230.84 billion by 2032

  • Market.US: plant-based market to 35.1 billion by 2032

Beyond Meat

The first plant-based meat brand, started in 2009, is one of two products with which consumers are most familiar. Beyond Meat now includes steak, ground beef, sausage, jerky, chicken nuggets and tenders, popcorn chicken, and meatballs. The products come in crumbles too.

Many restaurants and foodservice locations carry Beyond Meat products, such as KFC with their Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets, McDonald’s debuted in the UK its McPlant burger in 2023; and Taco Bell and Pizza Hut carry Beyond Meat products as well.

For its plant-based Teriyaki Steak, Subway uses The Vegetarian Butcher. Interestingly, Wendy’s decided to break from the mold and created its own burger; the black bean burger, instead of using Beyond Meat, Impossible, or other brand.

"It remains an uphill battle for the plant-based industry, as consumers are still tightening their belts and are less likely to try new premium grocery brands," – Blake Droesch, analyst from eMarketer

Beyond Meat’s Q1 2024 results just came out yesterday. The meatless brand was down 18% from the same period last year, with revenue of $75.6 million. Gross profit also was down from $6.2 million in Q1 2023 to $3.7 million in Q1 2024, which is 1.8% lower.

Product demand has slowed due to customers like McDonald’s and Yum Brands seeing sluggish consumer demand due to food price inflation.

In 2023, Beyond Meat released their second ISO-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which showed the Beyond Burger 3.0 patty generates 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, uses 97% less water and land, and requires 37% less non-renewable energy than an average conventional beef patty, according to a report by The Good Food Institute. Yet, sales were down.

While Beyond Meat increased its prices in the current quarter, the company's volumes fell 16.1% as consumers held their wallets close on spending.

The plant-based brand stated that its operating environment continues to be affected by uncertainty due to ongoing, further weakened demand in the plant-based meat category, as well as inflation and high interest rates, and concerns about a recession.

Shares of Beyond Meat have lost nearly all of their value since going public in 2019, Reuters reported.

Impossible Foods

Two years after Beyond Meat debuted, Impossible Foods launched its Impossible Burger. The difference between the two is that Impossible uses heme to define the red color in the “meat.” Beyond uses beet juice.

Impossible created a new brand identity and new packaging in March. In May, the company began offering its Impossible Chicken at Whole Foods Markets. Last year, it launched a new, “Indulgent” burger, which it claims has premium patties with gourmet flavor.

The company also launched a hot-dog product as well as Indulgent Beef and Lite Beef.

White Castle introduced the Impossible Slider in 2018. It became the first fast-food hamburger chain and largest restaurant group to partner with Impossible Foods. The Slider was an instant hit and has gained a loyal following, the company said.


It isn’t clear how profitable or not the company is doing, as it’s still private. However, in a recent article by Reuters, CEO Peter McGuinnes said the company is broadening distribution and had a gain of 25% in January 2024.

Impossible Foods is targeting a "liquidity event" that could include a public offering in the next two to three years, said CEO Peter McGuinness, as alternative meats fight to win back consumers.

McGuinness added in the article the plant-based meat manufacturer is also considering a sale to another company or a capital raise in the same time period. "I don't want to be pigeonholed into an IPO," he said.

With today's food inflation, consumers have since turned to cheaper options like canned meats.

Hain Celestial

The company owns Linda McCartney Foods and Yves plant-based meat-free products. These are in the Meal Prep category, which showed a downturn of 2.1% in 3Q 2024 from the previous year period. Yet the company reported in its Q1 2024 report that, in the UK, the Linda McCartney brand “increased velocities” in frozen by 20%, with a jump in distribution of 12% ahead of the retail meat-free launch of the Linda’s Best Burger which was this spring.

However, just last week the company stated it is trimming its plant-based McCartney range as part of its overall turnaround strategy.

MorningStar Farms

Under the Kellanova umbrella, MorningStar Farms has been in the plant-based business since 1975. It’s a frozen line of products that sells in grocery stores nationwide.

Statista stated that for 3 months ending August 13, 2023, the company sold around $46 million worth of products.

Overall, Kellanova saw its plant-based brand pick up share in Q1 2024, ending in March.


The Good Food Institute’s “2023 State of the Industry Report: Plant-based Meat, Seafood, Eggs, and Dairy” revealed total overall US retail plant-based food dollar sales were $8.1 billion in 2023, a slight decline from $8.2 billion in 2022. Plant-based meat and seafood sales declined, which indicates that opportunities exist to better meet consumer needs on key product characteristics like taste and price.

The report also shared that US plant-based price increases coincided with elevated inflation and tightened consumer budgets, and purchase dynamics indicated weakening consumer engagement in many plant-based categories.

Plant-based meat sales declined more sharply than plant-based food sales overall, and surveys of lapsed consumers showed that plant-based meat products are not meeting consumer expectations — especially in regard to taste, texture, and price. US consumers say they’d be more willing to eat plant-based meat if it tasted better, became more affordable, and overall provided a clear value.

None of the challenges facing plant-based foods are insurmountable, but they do require significant increases in government and private sector support, with an eye toward meeting consumer needs. Companies can innovate to improve the eating experience of their products and optimize production to deliver better affordability. The industry can collaborate to better communicate the benefits of plant-based meat and the unique value of their products to consumers.

Companies can innovate to improve the eating experience of their products and optimize production to deliver better affordability, the report shares. The industry also can collaborate to better communicate the benefits of plant-based meat and the unique value of their products to consumers.

Also, new sources of plant-based ingredients, new ways to cultivate these plants, and novel processes to optimize taste, texture, and nutrition were key technological themes driving research for plant-based foods in 2023. Advances were made in ingredient development, from new animal-free fats and emulsifiers to novel aquatic, leguminous, and upcycled protein sources.

While it seems that the market could make a comeback, the companies that manufacture these products are erring on the side of caution with their operation budgets. As well they should: The overall food and beverage market is unstable currently, and there is no end in short sight for price hikes due in part to inflation. (The other, possibly price gouging hikes.)

It really doesn’t matter, right now, if new development is on the horizon due to the price point. Perhaps this is why the market projections are so off with actual sales. The research firms either aren't taking into account inflation, or they are optimistic about it bouncing back. We can hope.

My take: Nothing will change until prices go down, likely when inflation will decrease. Will we see a change in a new federal administration? It’s hard to tell. I do agree with The Good Food Institute, which stated in its State of the Industry report that the plant-based food category needs government and the private sector behind it.

Will the entire plant-based market go in the tank? No. With all of the new ingredients and technical innovation surrounding it, I believe there will be something for nearly any consumer in the market.

Manufacturers might want to sit tight and wait. Nothing like new packaging or a new product will loosen consumers’ purse strings, especially if they are already on the fence about trying plant-based products.

About the Author(s)

Kristen Kazarian

Managing Editor

Kristen Kazarian has been a writer and editor for more than three decades. She has worked at several consumer magazines and B2B publications in the fields of food and beverage, packaging, processing, women's interest, local news, health and nutrition, fashion and beauty, automotive, and computers.

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