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Plant-based grows from strength to strength

The cost of meat and growing awareness of heath and sustainability are driving demand for plant-based products.

More and more research is showing that Australian consumers are seeking vegan and vegetarian products and meat alternatives, with sales figures revealing strong growth in the plant-based market. Market research company Euromonitor International found that the packaged vegan food market in Australia was worth $153 million in 2016, and was expected to reach $184.3 million in 2018. It’s anticipated the market will continue to grow, hitting $215 million by 2020.

Currently, Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world according to Euromonitor International. Growth is currently sitting at 9.6 per cent, just behind the UAE (10.6 per cent) and China (17.2 per cent). Demand is strongest in Tasmania, followed by Newcastle, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Canberra.

Research from market intelligence agency Mintel further bolsters these statistics, showing that in Australia, there was a 92 per cent increase in new products carrying a vegan claim between 2014 and 2016.

The increasing demand for meat-free products is concurrent with decreasing meat consumption. Contributing factors to this trend include growing awareness of health, the environmental impact of food choices, and the rising cost of meat.

Australian consumers have become acutely aware of the benefits of eating less meat. When it comes to health, meat and dairy consumption have been linked to nine major diseases (British Medical Journal). These include cancer and cardiovascular disease. Australia has also been going through a ‘fitness trend’ whereby products deemed unhealthy have fallen out of favour (Choosi Modern Food Trends Report 2017).

The environmental impact of the meat industry has been well-documented, too. In Australia, around 15 per cent of total greenhouse gases come from agriculture, with just over 67 per cent of that amount made of methane produced by ruminant animals like sheep and cattle (National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, May 2010). Australians are conscious of the impacts of their purchases, with research from Mintel showing that 34 per cent of urban Australians have a preference for products that are produced using sustainable sourcing methods.

Lastly, meat has become increasingly expensive, with a recent report by IBISWorld finding that the rising cost of meat has contributed to the growing popularity of plant-based products.

National grocery chains are catching on, introducing plant-based products and meat alternatives at stores around Australia. Coles has recently announced the addition of two new meat-free burger brands to its vegan product range, and Woolworths stocks a number of plant-based products from its own Macro label as well as other brands.

Of all the plant-based product categories, milk alternatives are showing the strongest growth. According to Renub Research, the global plant-based milk market is expected to exceed US$34 billion by 2024. A 2016 study by the CSIRO and the University of Adelaide also found that one in six Australians is avoiding dairy products – including those who don’t have an allergy or intolerance.

There are currently around 2.25 million vegans in Australia according to Roy Morgan Research, or about 11 per cent of the total population. But, with increased variety in the plant-based market and better products available, there’s little doubt that the number of Australians choosing a meat-free diet is only going to escalate.

Gemma Kaczerepa
Gemma Kaczerepa is a writer and editor based in Melbourne. She has written across multiple topics including food, travel and sustainability, but has a strong passion for health products and natural beauty.
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