Plant-based meat industry expected to boost state economy

Photos: Shutterstock.
Photos: Shutterstock.

The plant-based food sector is really starting to sizzle.

New independent market research reveals more than 30 per cent of Aussies are limiting their consumption of conventional meat - driven by an increased awareness about the impacts of their food choices.

Whether it's for health reasons, animal rights or climate change, the tide appears to be turning for meat-loving Aussies, as the demand for meat free alternatives grows.

Restaurants and supermarkets are adapting to shifting consumer preferences with more vegetarian and vegan-friendly options on the menu and in the aisles than ever before.

Plant-based products are even extending into sectors that are traditionally dominated by meat.

Last week, fast food outlet Hungry Jacks launched a completely meat free burger, the Rebel Whopper, to provide for a new set of customers.

The burger patty was developed by the company working with the CSIRO and plant-based meat start-up v2food and is promoted as having zero per cent beef but 100 per cent taste.

Earlier this year, burger joint Grill'd launched their Beyond Burger range with four new options on the menu, all free from beef.

With all the elements of a juicy burger, the Beyond Meat patties are made from plants but taste like meat.

It's an option the company hopes to continue providing - pushing for 50 per cent of the Grill'd menu to be plant-based by 2020.

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As the vegan movement gains popularity and the demand for plant-based products grows, the alternative protein market is on the cusp of expansion as a major future industry.

Australian alternative protein think tank Food Frontiers released a report in September that predicted the sector could contribute up to $3 billion to the country's economy, and generate thousands of full-time jobs, by 2030.

The first analysis of its kind, Meat The Alternative: Australia's $3 Billion Opportunity found that Australia's plant-based meat sector currently generates almost $30 million in economic value, $150 million a year in consumer expenditure and supports 265 jobs.

Within the next decade, this is projected to grow to generate $1.1 billion in economic value, almost $3 billion in consumer expenditure, and employ more than 6000 full-time workers.

Western Australia stands to gain seven per cent of predicted manufacturing and jobs

Food Frontier chief executive Thomas King said the emerging sector would complement the current state of Australian agriculture.

"This research demonstrates overwhelmingly strong growth prospects for Australia's plant-based meat sector over the next decade," he said.

"It comes off the back of a wave of new plant-based meat products, enabled by advances in food science and culinary creativity, that aim to mimic the sensory experience of eating conventional meat with fewer environmental and health impacts.

"Put simply, we're facing a multi-billion-dollar opportunity for Australia to become a global plant-protein powerhouse, and the great news is we already have the intellectual and infrastructure assets to seize it."

New, independent market research developed for Food Frontier revealed 67 per cent of Australians had not yet tried plant-based meat products, while 32 per cent were limiting their consumption of traditional meat.

It also found there are more than 100 plant-based meat products from 21 brands are currently stocked in major Australian supermarkets with a number of new products from food producers still expected to launch later this year.

Mr King said the rise in consumer interest was already driving greater availability and variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly options.

"More and more Aussies are discovering that plant-based meats mean enjoying their favourite meals, from sausages to meatballs, while having a lighter impact on their health and the planet," he said.

"The economic evidence is in, and Aussies are voting with their wallets. With the right political and economic will, Australia can fulfil its potential to build a globally competitive, multi-billion-dollar industry.

"Support from government and investment by business is urgently needed to drive nationwide job growth and the economic benefits projected over the next decade, ensuring a robust and competitive plant-based meat industry into the future.

"Australia needs to act quickly to stake its claim in the global plant-based meat sector or risk being left behind by its competitors."