With the outbreak of new crown pneumonia, plant-based proteins may become a solution to the “meat shortage”. According to U.S. media reports, during the outbreak of new crown pneumonia, a large number of meat processing plants in the Americas have entered a state of shutdown. The stagnation of the supply chain has forced the farmers’ industry to dispose of livestock that have nowhere to go, and consumers are immediately faced with a “meat-free” situation. However, tofu, which was supposed to be seen as a niche product, has entered the spotlight of American consumers.
Kroger, a retailer with nearly 2,800 supermarket stores across the country, said sales of tofu rose nearly 9 per cent between mid-March and the end of May. Wegmans, which has 101 stores in seven states, says sales of tofu have almost doubled compared with the same period in 2019.
Tofu becomes a hot meat alternative
As of the end of April, meat processing plants in the United States, Canada and Brazil, which account for nearly 65 percent of the world’s meat trade, were closed in large numbers as the virus spread, Japanese media reported. At the time, nearly a third of U.S. pork slaughtering facilities were unproducing. At the risk of a potential shortage of pork, plant-based proteins such as “artificial meat” and tofu are beginning to reach mainstream consumers.
Last year, U.S. tofu sales were $363 million, and penetration in retail stores was even 5 percent. But in the early days of shutdowns at most U.S. factories, in the third week of March, sales of all plant foods increased 90 percent from last year, according to the PbFA. Sales of tofu rose 66.7 percent in March from the same period in 2019, while sales rose 32.8 percent in May, according to Nielsen, a consulting firm.
South Korean food maker Pulmuone accounts for 78 per cent of US tofu sales. Jay Toscano, the company’s executive vice president of sales, said sales of tofu in the U.S. were very good, with three u.S. plants producing six days a week, but still had to import tomeet demand from South Korea.
What’s more, tofu is cheapcompared to other meat substitutes. Man-made meat brand Beyond Meat has a price tag of $8.99 for a pound (about 0.45 kg) of “beef min” and $2.99 for nearly a pound of tofu. “For price-sensitive, health-conscious consumers, this (buying tofu) is a viable option for adding more protein to their diets,” said Dasha Shor, a global food analyst at Mintel, a market research consultancy. “
House Foods, the Japanese tofu maker, also saw significant business growth, with sales up 8 per cent from previous years. The company and Hodo Foods, another U.S. vegetarian food brand, are both planning to increase production capacity within the next year. However, Minh Tsai, Hodo’s chief executive, said tofu makers were unprepared for the sudden surge in demand because of the low efficiency of processing retail tofu and the difficulty of scaling up during the new crown.
In addition, sales of alternatives to tofu have risen. Foodies Vegan, an American vegetarian brand, uses pumpkin seeds to make a tofu-like product. Christian Stroud, the company’s chief operating officer, said sales had increased by 50 per cent, and that shipments this year could exceed $1m.
Plant-based proteins in the future
It’s not just tofu producers that have objectively increased the benefits as a result of the outbreak. During the new crown outbreak, meat, while still in the sales growth range, has been driven away by other plant-based alternatives. According to Nielsen, sales of meat from April 12 to May 9 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks leading up to January 18, while sales of plant-based meat substitutes rose 35 percent over the same period. The difference was even more pronounced in the category of untreated (raw food cooked without advance cooking), with a 53 per cent increase in vegetarian products and a 34 per cent increase in meat products.
To meet demand, artificial meat brand Impossible Foods has had to continue hiring more workers and increasing wages and shifts. Beyond Meat also recorded sales in the first quarter of this year, with retail sales of Beyond Meat up 233 per cent in the four weeks to March 22, outpacing the 93 per cent rise in plant-based meats as a whole, according to its founder, Ethan Brown. “Surprisingly, this year’s animal protein market has seen such a chaotic pricing, with wholesale and retail costs of beef rising sharply in a short period of time. Brown said.
Indeed, wholesale meat prices in the United States are rising rapidly. In the week beginning June 8, the wholesale price of whole-cut beef at the UsDA’s Selective grade was $4.10 a pound, up from $2.05 a pound in early March. Some stores are asking suppliers to produce more popular sliced beef and more ground beef, which consumers are more likely to buy during the recession. At the same time, retail prices of higher-end meat fell. This week’s rib eye steak was $8.39 a pound, up from $9.91 last week and $10.78 a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Leading brands in plant-based meat substitutes have been on the rise due to a shortage of animal-based proteins that have been restricted and prices have risen. Beyond Meat’s net income rose 141 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, and its share price has more than doubled since the beginning of the year. Its products have entered 25,000 grocery stores in the United States, and recently announced a partnership with food distributor Sinodis to enter the Chinese market and significantly increase its market share in Asia. Peter Saleh, an analyst at Investment Bank BTIG, rated Beyond Meat as a buy with a target price of $173.
In fact, even before the outbreak of new crown pneumonia, interest in plant-based meat was on the rise. From the end of December to the beginning of January, from the end of December to the beginning of January, sales of plant meat rose 30 percent from a year earlier, while meat sales rose only about 1 percent in the same period, according to Nielsen.