| Aug 6, 2019

The Real Deal with Fake Meat (Part 1)

Years ago, Americans probably would have greeted any mentions of “plant-based meat” with eye-rolls. Today’s consumers, however, are more aware of the health and environmental benefits of plant-based meat, and are actively seeking these products, creating countless opportunities for brands and retailers.

One example is Beyond Meat, which went public in May 2019 and has been expanding both distribution and product offerings ever since. Compared to one year ago, Numerator Insights data shows households purchasing Beyond Meat products are up 46.3%, trips are up 47.9%, and sales are up 71.3%. Since its May IPO, the company’s value* has soared almost 600% to $10.56 billion as of August 1. 

To better understand the emergence of plant-based meat alternatives, let’s debunk the biggest myth about these products, identify who buyers are and the factors driving their purchases, and analyze the effectiveness of plant-based meat advertising.

Plant-Based Meat Mythbusting

“Plant-based meat alternatives are for vegans and vegetarians.”

Surprisingly, this commonly-held belief is incorrect. According to a Numerator survey of more than one thousand plant-based meat buyers, we found that dietary restrictions are not a top reason shoppers are trying plant-based meat alternatives. Health and curiosity are the primary drivers of plant-based meat purchases, though vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be motivated by environmental and ethical concerns. 


To further the point, nearly half of meat alternative buyers (48%) have no meat-avoidant members in their household, and only 30% have a vegetarian or vegan in the household.

Who’s Buying Plant-Based Meat Alternatives?

Buyers are typically high-income, highly educated Millennials of varying ethnicities living in urban areas, according to Numerator Insights data.


Plant-based meat alternatives are reaching a broad audience too. While 93% of buyers purchase these products for themselves, 45% purchase for their spouse or significant other, 28% purchase for children, and 26% purchase for a friend or another adult.

Advertising Is On-Target

You might have been hard-pressed to find an ad for plant-based meat alternatives in previous years, but ad spend has increased significantly in the first half of 2019. As it stands, most triers found out about plant-based meat alternatives from family and friends or when they saw it in a store or on a menu, but we’re excited to see how newer advertisements fare in the months to come.


Numerator Ad Intel data indicates that brands seem to have done their homework, targeting consumers who love the taste of meat rather than those with dietary restrictions, while still highlighting the health benefits.


What Consumers Are Saying About Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

First and foremost, they love the taste and perceived healthiness. They also like that these products don’t involve harming animals and are better for the environment. And three out of four triers believe plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than real meat.

Overall, the feedback on these products is overwhelmingly positive: 62% of triers are very or extremely satisfied, 83% would recommend to someone else, and 81% would try other types of plant-based meat alternative products. Only 15% think this is a temporary fad, indicating that people like plant-based meat alternatives, and they don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss how consumers think plant-based meat alternatives compare to real meat, how this is affecting consumption of both, and what other categories are being affected positively and negatively by plant-based meat alternatives.

*Source: CNBC, Beyond Meat shares fall after pricing secondary stock offering at $160