It’s time for a light bulb moment in the dimming alt-meat market!
Pressure to keep up momentum in the category will bring innovation to the forefront.
By Christie Lagally
In the 5 years Rebellyous Foods has been in business, the popularity of alt-meat has seen some extreme ups and downs. While we are facing a climate crisis, a fraught political situation and inflation, is it wrong to say I am happy to see the end of astronomical growth in plant-based foods?
Over the last few years, the plant-based market has grown on the back of hype. Novelty and marketing spend incentivized consumers to taste, try and talk about plant-based proteins, resulting in unit and dollar growth in the category. That growth drove more investment and media coverage, in turn leading to more product development and brands entering the space. A plant-based hype loop was created.
But the high growth rate that resulted was a temporary, overstated inflation of the market, and with key category needs left unaddressed, the frenzy is now cooling. Lower unit growth (and dollar growth maintained primarily by price increases by many brands), has created disillusionment in the potential of the category. It’s brought to the forefront the reality that more than just hype is needed for the plant-based market to reach its potential. Frankly, the dose of reality is a welcome change.
As in any category, as long as the status quo appears to be working, there won’t be fundamental change.
And we absolutely need fundamental change. We are facing a climate crisis of epic proportions, and the technology required to address it will take nothing short of transformation in every sector of our economy. While alt-energy and alt-transportation have significant head-starts on technology development, no sector is more ripe for deep technological progress than alt-meat.
Luckily leaders in the field, like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, MorningStar and many others before them, saw the writing on the wall early enough to set the stage for how desperately we need to replace meat. But the tough work is getting the price and quantity needed to make an impact.
The numbers paint a daunting story. We have to replace meat on a very large scale. The United States alone will produce over 108,000,000,000 pounds of animal-based meat. Plant-based meat clocks in at just 1/2 of one percent of that volume. And despite the best of intentions from the early players, it’s time for act two of the plant-based meat revolution.
The trough of disillusionment for plant-based meat came unfortunately timed with the global pandemic’s dip in our economy. Rising inflation, societal uncertainty, and fear of war and destruction has been temporally associated with people’s need to conserve and stabilize their own existence. There’s no doubt we have to eat less meat as a society. Plant-based meat is one of the most effective ways we can get there. Yet despite being the third most impactful way of addressing climate change, plant-based alternatives could easily be pushed to the bottom if we can’t bring it out of the trough of disillusionment.
That is why Rebellyous’s food tech is so revolutionary. In a time when the industry was focused on short-term growth, we saw the necessity to address a real category need, price parity with conventional meat, to ramp up to the category’s expected long-term growth. We knew the market couldn’t afford to ignore these fundamental gaps in the plant-based and cultured meat space, no matter how tough the work might be.
When I founded Rebellyous Foods, I was gifted with a lot of advice from a lot of really insightful people. These words of wisdom from a test pilot I worked with at Boeing continue to resonate with me today, “Do the job that no one else wants to do because it’s too hard.” At Rebellyous, we made a choice to do the job that is harder. Instead of joining the hype loop, our team put in the work… and emerged with the technology to substantially push the industry forward.
Rebellyous technology delivers price parity to conventional meat and creates a sustainable, profitable business model. The groundbreaking price will make our product a viable repeat choice for consumers at a time when uncertainty, inflation, job losses and fear are plentiful and dominating, and the business model’s financial sustainability will keep us out of future hype loops!
No matter the market direction, great companies do not rise or fall because of market conditions. Great companies, those that make an impact despite the economic downturn or poor market conditions for their particular industry, emerge because of steadfast dedication to build real change. Great companies are those that build the change they want to see in the world.
The change we’re building is a second plant-based meat revolution — one built to support astronomical growth that will stand the test of the market.
Christie Lagally is the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, a plant-based meat manufacturing and production technology company based in Seattle, Wash.