In 2020, retail sales of plant-based meat grew 45%, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time. Increasing awareness of companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, in addition to climate change and animal welfare concerns, encouraged many Americans to give plant-based meat a shot. The nature of the pandemic helped sales as well, with consumers facing meat shortages, having extra cash to spend, and looking for something new to break up the day-to-day monotony. However, the plant-based meat industry has faced some challenges recently.
As of December, supermarket sales of refrigerated plant-based meat had declined 14% versus the prior year, according to the retail data company IRI. Orders of plant-based burgers at food service outlets were down 9% in November compared to 2019 levels. The decline is among the reasons Beyond Meat, whose stock price has fallen nearly 75% in the last year, laid off 20% of its workforce in 2022. Impossible Foods, despite seeing 50% retail sales growth last year, laid off 6% of its employees last October and is reportedly planning to shrink its headcount by an additional 20%.
An Impossible spokesperson provided the following comment on the company’s recent workforce reduction: “We took steps last week to position our business for sustainable, balanced growth over the long term by bringing our costs more in line with our revenue, which includes reducing our workforce. We remain confident in the strength of our business and our future growth, and we’re grateful to all of the talented, dedicated employees who have contributed to our mission.”
If inflation was the only reason for the industry’s struggles, there’d be less cause for concern. Plant-based meat is still two- to four-times as expensive as traditional meat, according to the Good Food Institute, so it’s possible many consumers of plant-based meat have simply cut back temporarily to save money.