Plant-based meat alternatives haven’t been immune to the heightened inflationary pressures seen across the grocery store—and especially in the meat department—in the past year. According to Chicago-based market researcher IRI, the modest 3.6% dollar sales gain that refrigerated and frozen meat alternatives tallied year over year in March came largely from inflation in frozen meat alternatives. As with conventional meat, unit and volume sales for meat alternatives were down year over year this spring.
But cost-conscious consumers may find more to like in meat alternatives, especially in the refrigerated case, as prices for traditional beef, pork and chicken products continue to trend more than 10% higher than they were a year ago. Refrigerated meat substitutes’ average price per pound was down 0.3% year over year in March, while unit prices fell 1.8% over the 12-month period. Compare that with the more than 16% jump in conventional beef prices for the same period and a 13% spike in retail chicken prices. Overall, conventional meat prices per pound still stand below prices for meat alternatives: $4.45 per pound across meat types and cuts in March, vs. $8.16 for meat alternatives. But as that gap shrinks thanks to continued inflation in conventional meat, and as consumers continue to seek quick, convenient, hassle-free dinner options—and right-size packaging that will help them cut down on food waste—refrigerated meat alternatives may present an attractive value proposition.
“When you look at companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods … they have been very clear that they have a strategic goal of achieving price parity with conventional proteins for at least one of their products,” Jennifer Bartashus, senior analyst of food and food retail for Bloomberg Intelligence, said in an interview with WGB late last summer. “So if these companies take the opportunity to actually keep their prices steady or to even lower them, at the same time when conventional protein prices are rising, that could be a very large opportunity to bring people into buying the products and repeat-buying those products.”