EVEN under the most conservative growth trajectory forecasts, plant-based meat manufacturing in Australia is expected to generate hundreds of millions in value-add to the economy and employ more than 2000 people by 2030.
Under a 'mass market commodity' scenario, where these products emerge as a dietary staple, modelling shows consumer expenditure would rise to $4.6 billion and the industry would employ more than 15000.
These projections from economics consultancy Deloitte, which was commissioned by alternative protein outfit Food Frontier, were presented in a session on emerging consumer trends at the big agricultural economic conference ABARES Outlook 2020 in Canberra.
Whether their reasoning is based on any solid foundation or not, an increasing number of consumers are questioning whether eating meat is the right thing, it was agreed in the session.
Deloitte senior manager Jo Jericho, lead director for agribusiness, had statistics on what the plant-based business looks like now that would probably raise the eyebrows of many a beef producer.
Australian consumers spent $150 million on these products in the last financial year. Most of that was in grocery channels but a reasonable amount was in foodservice.
Domestic manufacturing of plant-based meat generated almost $30 million in value-add and the sector supported 265 full-time jobs.
The Deloitte work aimed to quantify, for the first time in Australia, the future economic potential of the sector.
It came up with three possible 2030 scenarios.
If the current moderate growth trajectory continues, plant-based meats will become a popular and accessible alternative, generating over $1b in value-add with Australian sales, both local and imported, reaching $3 billion.
A slower growth trajectory to 2030 would generate $398m in value-add and employ 2100.
The high-growth scenario, where plant-based meats provided a source of protein for 4-6 meals a week for at least half the population, would see Australians consume an average of 15.5kg of the product a year. That would result in a total of $2.9 billion in direct and indirect value-add.
Plant-based meat is just one alternative protein but it is the one where a commercial market already exists in Australia.
The product aims to replicate the sensory experience of cooking and eating meat.
Ms Jericho said it was targeted towards flexitarians, as opposed to vegans or vegetarians. These are consumers who are actively trying to reduce, but still occasionally consume, conventional meat.
"To be clear, the livestock sector isn't declining any time soon," Ms Jericho said.
"In fact, the short term prospects are good. Rather, plant-based meats will absorb some of the rising demand for proteins that livestock can't meet."
More broadly, the work highlights the potential for this sector to drive growth in the Australian economy as consumer preferences, and diets, continue to evolve, she said.
"It highlights the importance of continued investment in research and development in the sector, as Australian businesses will face significant competition from developed markets," she said.
"And it highlights the opportunities which are emerging in this industry if Australia can leverage its reputation for high-quality food products and capture the growing demand for alternative proteins globally."
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The story Plant-based protein's big potential - but not at livestock's expense first appeared on Farm Online.