The retreat from meat has traction. “Meat is the new coal”, said Jeremy Coller, the founder of Coller Capital, a private equity fund which exerts pressure on the food industry to face up to the realities of climate change. He says that animal agriculture is “the world’s biggest industry without a low-carbon plan”. He believes that this is a major risk for investors. So the change to veganism is in part being driven by the big investors. That’s probably why it’s gaining traction, that and the fact that people are falling over each other to invest in start-ups and established companies engaged in creating plant-based substitutes to meat.
In America they have Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Shares in the latter have more than trebled in value since flotation this month. Bill Gates has invested in Impossible Foods and it is valued at $2 billion. In the UK there is Morten Toft Beech’s The Meatless Farm Company. This new company is expected to turn over about £20 million this year. It’s raised about 6.5 million from investors. The founder hopes that it will be valued at more than £100 million by the end of 2019. Morten said:
“The market is very hot right now – we been able to cherry pick investors”.Morten Toft Beech
In the UK, Greggs and Pret a Manger are both getting into plant-based products. Pret is going to convert 94 Eat outlets into Veggie Prets. Even Americans are coming around to the idea of plant-based substitutes to meat. Big food companies such as Unilever, Nestlé and Kerry are responding. They’ve invested in or are acquiring start-ups which make plant-based meat. They want to develop bacon, chicken, sausages and burgers that taste like the real thing but which are made from plants.
Barclays estimate that this market could reach a value of US$140 billion within 10 years. This is 10% of the worldwide trade in meat. A major influence on this trend towards vegetarianism and veganism is a rapidly growing global awareness of the dangers inherent in livestock farming upon the environment. Producing meat accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It drives deforestation. It causes water shortages and the overuse of antibiotics on livestock is a contributor to human resistance to antibiotics.
I believe that a major player in this, perhaps the biggest influence is climate change and the health of the planet. People are really coming around to thinking about this. Big business is still abusing the planet horrendously but they are liable to be left behind and God willing they will go bankrupt if they fail to start think about making their business less damaging to the environment and therefore less damaging to the animals with whom we share the planet.
There is a way to go, however. In Britain only 1% are vegan and 73% call themselves meat-eaters. Fifty-five percent of meat eaters have said they won’t change. Three percent plan to become vegetarians within a year. Animal welfare is the main reason. I predict it will change. As I said veganism has traction. It will never be the way it was.