Plant-based meats get more affordable with scaled-up production but health concerns persist

by asiafoodbeverages
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In Singapore, a major test market where meat alternatives are found in abundant quantities, prices of plant-based meat like chicken and beef patties have gone down by 15% compared to 3 years ago when it was just launched in the market.

With production scaled-up to match increasing demand, meat alternative producers are now able to offer their products at an affordable price to consumers who are increasingly adopting a flexitarian lifestyle diet.

Country Foods, one of the country’s largest importers, distributors and manufacturers of innovative and sustainable foods, has confirmed that prices of alternative meat has fallen by around 15%, driven by both market demand and increased production. It supplies to around 100 restaurants and more than 100 stores, including major retailers and e-grocers such as RedMart.

According to Elaine Koh, Country Foods’ Head of Marketing, “More new restaurants have been signing on to come on board and work with us to offer plant-based and alternative proteins on their menus.”

In addition, grocery retailers such as Cold Storage and Giant have also seen sales of alternative proteins increased by 90% since 2019. Major supermarket chain, FairPrice currently offers more than 10 brands of plant-based meat products and it has witnessed 10% growth in demand annually.

Demand has been fuelled by growing flexitarian lifestyle as well as rising consumer concerns over health and the environment in recent years brought by the pandemic. Despite the rising demand, alternative proteins still need to do a lot of catching up as it still lags far behind conventional meats.

Looking at the health perspective, some food science experts have also voiced a word of caution. According to them, some alternative proteins still lack important micronutrients that are found in animal meats. A recent study led by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) comparing different diets in the US found that diets which replaced meat and dairy with novel plant-based substitutes did not meet the daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B12. These diets also exceeded the recommended limits for saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Professor William Chen, Director of Nanyang Technological University’s food science and technology programme, said that some of these important micronutrients are missing in plant-based sources, which alternative protein firms should focus on in order to make these products a good substitute for animal meats. Many of alternative meat products come in the form of burger patties and nuggets, as such they are either fried or cooked with sauce and flavouring which could indirectly increase one’s uptake of saturated fat and sodium, leading to health issues.

In terms of pricing, meat alternative producers argue that their prices will soon come down close to conventional meats. Currently, price of alternative beef is almost twice as much as conventional beef meat. The question is “Does the price of alternative meat comes close to conventional meat because it has gone down cheaper or does conventional meat price goes higher to match alternative meats due to current political and inflationary pressures ??” The future is unknown.

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