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Let’s face it: Meat is popular in America. According to the World Economic Forum, the United States and Australia lead the world in meat consumption. While two-thirds of American consumers maintain they’re eating less meat, many still consume it on a frequent basis. So, meat isn’t going away anytime soon. However, a new food revolution appears to be making inroads into its popularity. That would be the one concerning “fake meat.” In this article, we discuss why products like the Impossible burger are rising in popularity, and we drill down to the real business behind fake meat.

Exploring The Possibilities In Marketing Sustainable Meat 

Meat has been the backbone of the restaurant industry for a long time. Over 30% of all calories consumed by human beings comes from it. Certainly, meat is big business for restaurants, given that America is the largest meat consumer in the world.

In fact, we ingest more than our weight in meat every year, with an average of over 220 lbs per person. To say that meat dominates the food supply and demand paradigm would be an understatement.

However, consider this: what if that dominance was disrupted by the popularity of fake meat? Additionally, what if restaurants could leverage alternative proteins to raise profits, boost loyalty, and experience unprecedented growth?

In other words, what if fake meat could be a game changer for your restaurant?

The Real Business Behind Fake Meat: Delivering Value To Raise Revenue Margins

The meat analogue market is booming. With big brands like Impossible Foods ($2b evaluation) and Beyond Meat ($3.5b evaluation) competing for dominance in this emerging industry, one thing is clear — people love fake meat.

In other words, alternative proteins aren’t just for hippies or the granola-eating crowd anymore.

It’s definitely gone mainstream. Global fake meat sales are expected to top $5.2 billion by next year, and this trend is expected to continue well into 2026.

For restaurants, the popularity of fake meat is something to watch closely. Not only does adding it to your menu align your restaurant with consumer tastes, but it also gives you a leg up on competitors who haven’t yet wised up to its popularity.

Who Is Eating All of This Fake Meat?

“Greater than 90% of our customers are self-avowed carnivores who want to eat meat… just not every meal.” David Lee, CFO, Impossible Foods

So, who’s eating fake meat? The simple answer is: Everyone!

But, let’s look at it from a more granular approach.

There are two primary drivers behind this latest food trend: taste preferences among the youth demographic (Gen Z and millennials) and global health trends.

Youth Taste Preferences

To say that the young crowd is onboard with meat alternatives would be an understatement!

  • According to a college campus survey by Y-Pulse, college-aged individuals list “plant-based selections” as one of their main priorities in campus dining.
  • Gen Z consumes 57% more meat alternatives than Millennials. And, nearly 8 in 10 Millennials purchase alternative meat!
  • There are 12x more vegan Millennials than Baby Boomers — and 3x more than Gen X.
  • Consumers under 40 increased their intake of fresh vegetables and vegetable products by 52% over the last year.

Global Health Trends

We all want to be a little healthier, and this desire seems to dominate across the global stage.

  • There was a 600% increase in the number of people who identified themselves as “vegan” in 2019.
  • 66% of consumers believe that fake meat is healthier than real meat.
  • 83% of US consumers are adding plant-based foods to their diets for health reasons.
  • 23% of consumers expect to see more plant-based options on restaurant menus to support their health goals in the next year.

But, the force behind meat analogues spans far beyond these two primary triggers. A full 70% of the entire world’s population is reducing red meat intake OR switching to meat-free alternatives.

Fake meat is a rapidly rising food trend, and everyone wants a piece of the action.

Multi-National Firms Are Taking The Bull By The Horns In The Plant Protein Arena

Fake meat is sending shockwaves through the restaurant space as it morphs into a multi-billion dollar industry. Big brands are paying attention and jumping on board. From chain restaurants to major players in the meat supply chain, everyone wants a piece of the plant protein pie.

In June 2019, Tyson Foods announced its entry into the alternative proteins market with its new Raised & Rooted blended burgers and plant-based nuggets. The first consists of burgers that are a blend of isolated pea protein and Angus burgers. Meanwhile, the second is made from a blend of egg whites, flaxseeds, and pea protein. Tyson maintains that its blended burgers are lower in calories and saturated fat than “80% lean beef, 20% fat” burgers.

Interestingly, Tyson recently sold its 10% stake in Beyond Meat, so it’s gearing up for more action in the alternative protein business. Currently, it’s the largest meat manufacturer to offer its own brand of fake meat products.

Another competitor, Cargill, also recently sold off its cattle feedlots to free up funding for meat alternatives.

Meanwhile, Perdue has just launched its Chicken Plus nuggets, a blend of chickpeas, cauliflower, antibiotic-free chicken, and other plant proteins. Eric Christianson, the Chief Marketing Officer for Perdue, maintains that the new Chicken Plus product will help end every parent’s “eat your vegetables” battle.

Not to be outdone, Hormel-owned Applegate recently added mushrooms to its beef burgers.

The big boys aren’t alone, however.

The Big Business Behind Fake Meat: A Race To The Top Of The Sustainable Meat Industry

Major meat producers aren’t the only ones trying to carve out a share in the fake meat market. The biggest names in food service are also offering meatless alternatives.

And that’s far from an exhaustive list. It’s safe to say that restaurants are ready to cash in on the trend. So, where does your restaurant stand? Is your brand positioned to leverage the business behind fake meat?

Why Restaurants Should Consider Adding Plant-Based Proteins To Their Menus

It’s obvious that fake meat is a booming industry, and there are already plenty of major players cementing their place in the high-stakes market. But, should YOUR restaurant enter the arena? After all, not every restaurant chain is jumping on the fake meat bandwagon. Macdonalds doesn’t yet offer a vegan burger. Meanwhile, Taco Bell has no plans to add Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat products to its regular menu.

Yet, the fake meat craze shows NO signs of winding down.

Baum, a leading restaurant consultant group, lists plant-based foods” as the #1 upcoming food trend for restaurants. Part of this is due to rising demands (39% of Americans want to try more vegan options). However, a large portion of this trend is focused less on generating profits than on plain civic consciousness. Yes, the business behind fake meat can be altruistic in nature.

This new fake meat craze puts restaurants in a position to do something important: differentiate themselves through socially conscious ways. The vast majority of restaurants close their doors within one year of opening. Additionally, as the restaurant market gets cannibalized by 3rd party ordering apps, fractured by major players (64% of restaurant traffic goes to major chains), and threatened by growing “eating-at-home” trends, finding a way to make your restaurant stand out is more important than ever.

Alternative protein selections are a great way to differentiate your brand from others. And, restaurants are increasingly taking note. The number of plant-based meat shipments to restaurants rose by 20% over the last year. And, US retail sales of plant-based meats grew 23% in that same timeframe.

With 39% of Americans looking to include more vegan options in their diets, fake meat is more than just a growth gimmick; it’s a survival tool.

How Will Sustainable Meat Impact Your Restaurant Online Ordering Strategy?

Anytime we talk about adding a new menu item, online ordering enters the equation. It’s the elephant in the room. 60% of US consumers order online at least once-a-week. Also, digital ordering has grown around 300% faster than dine-ins.

Online ordering is more than an added layer of value, it’s an essential part of your restaurant’s business strategy. So, how do fake meats play in?

If you’re planning on adding alternative proteins to your restaurant’s menu, it has to be noticeable. This is a growing trend, and you want to be out in front of it.

Your online menu is the perfect place to show your customers that you’re ready to meet their expanding tastes. With image-centric online menu layouts and special promotions, you can inform your customers about your new product offerings.

And, that’s HUGE for restaurants looking to capitalize on any trend. You want your customers to know what you’re selling, so you can move as much product as possible. Best of all, each order provides valuable insights into your new campaign, and that data is measurable and can be used to boost profits in the future.

So, make sure that you leverage the right online ordering system to give you the best chance of winning the fake meat wars. You won’t be the only restaurant looking to win with plant-based meats. However, you can be the most noticeable one.

How 9Fold Can Help Your Restaurant Win Big With Plant Proteins

With 9Fold, you get a branded online ordering system that delivers control into your hands. Our fast and user-friendly system provides everything needed to run incredible promotions for new menu ideas. With image-centric menu layouts, smart insights, and easy-to-use promotion and deal tools, 9Fold gives you the power to win, no matter what trends arise.

Best of all, our system customizes a portal you can make YOUR own. Unlike 3rd party ordering systems, 9Fold lets you keep your money where it belongs — in your cash register.

Like what you’ve read so far about the business behind fake meat? If you’d like to learn more about how 9Fold can support your foray into the alternative proteins market, contact us. Or, take a chance and try out a 100% free demo for yourself. Experience online food ordering as it’s meant to be with our restaurant-centric approach to online ordering systems!