Plant-based protein is having a moment, and right now it’s not quite a good one. Sales are down in the U.S., punctuated by the meat giant JBS’ recent decision to shutter its Colorado-based Planterra Foods. The price of plant-based alternatives is still too pricey for many American consumers, especially after the cost of meat has largely flatlined, and even declined, after pandemic-induced supply chain problems sent the cost of beef and other meats soaring during 2020 and 2021. Then there was last month’s saga about Beyond Meat’s COO and his Mike Tyson moment: It was a allegedly a nose, not an ear, but that didn’t exactly spark a public relations lift for what analysts largely describe as a beleaguered segment within the global food industry.
But the plant-based protein industry, even here in the U.S., isn’t beleaguered, and investors should be confident in their current and future stakes in these companies if they’re seeking long-term returns. Sure, Beyond Meat’s recent struggles have taken up a lot of the oxygen in the room, and Impossible Foods did recently lay off about 6 percent of its workforce. On the latter point, the company responsible for reinventing Burger King’s Whopper claimed many of those roles were redundant or unnecessary under its reorganization plan, and says its retail sales have kept surging year after year.
But not everyone is bemoaning the current trials and tribulations of plant-based protein companies. One of them is Bloomberg’s Amanda Little, who in a recent op-ed says investors should shake off what is now appearing as a bear market and be bullish on the future of these alternatives to meat. She points to a BCG report from 2021 that predicts plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy will comprise 11 percent of the global protein market — in the event she’s off by a few percentage points, that amount will still be sharply up from what is now about 2 percent today.
“Remember, too, that alternative meats are competing against a subsidized industry that has had more than a century to achieve good economics,” Little writes. “Even in the U.S., we can expect a price advantage for faux meats to arrive soon enough. The rising costs of water, feed and supply chain disruptions in the climate change era will increase the cost of livestock production and, eventually, consumers will be paying a green discount for alternative products rather than a green premium.”
One company that is ignoring the current chatter over the state of the U.S. plant-based protein market is Toronto-based Odd Burger. Five years after opening Canada’s first vegan fast-food eatery, the company says it plans on launching franchises in 25 U.S. states, and no, California, New York, Oregon nor Washington are on the list: States currently in the company’s crosshairs include Alabama, Iowa and Wyoming.
While the company offers its own vegan takes on fast-food standbys such as the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin and Whopper, meat-free gyros, chicken sandwiches, tacos, milkshakes and even Nanaimo bars are on the menu. The company has operated its own manufacturing plant since 2018.
"We could not be more excited to initiate our U.S. expansion and extend our brand to millions of people in the U.S. market," says James McInnes, Co-Founder and CEO of Odd Burger, said in a public statement. "We have already received hundreds of inquiries from potential franchisees in the U.S. and now we will begin the process of finding the perfect franchise partners to work with."
McInnes joins Little in viewing the future of plant-based protein as on that is bright. Part of such optimism stems from two undeniable trends: The taste, texture and quality of these alternative to meats keeps improving, while the environment for the global meat industry will only become a more difficult one in which to operate. “The rising costs of water, feed and supply chain disruptions in the climate change era will increase the cost of livestock production and, eventually, consumers will be paying a green discount for alternative products rather than a green premium,” concludes Little. “For all the difficult headwinds plaguing the plant-based industry today, there are still more powerful tailwinds pushing it forward.”
Image credit: Odd Burger via Facebook
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.