As the myriad benefits of a plant-based diet become more widely understood, a number of prolific experts have publicly backed this way of eating, calling on businesses for a widespread shift away from global over-reliance on animal agriculture.
One of the key players when it comes to prompting the shift on a corporate level, is The Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return [FAIRR] Initiative, which aims to 'make the food chain supply more sustainable' by promoting plant-based products.
Bringing together a coalition of 71 investors - with a staggering combined value of $3.3 trillion dollars - puts FAIRR in a strong position. FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller claims these coalition members have a big enough stake in the retail outlets and food manufacturers to make their voices heard. As he says: "We own you."
This power means investors are able to lead manufacturers towards creating more sustainable products.
FAIRR believes that a large part of the battle to make meat-free alternatives available and affordable for consumers lies with large retailers, so last year the organization wrote a letter 16 leading food companies, asking them to focus on creating more plant-based protein sources - and to report back on their progress.
These companies included General Mills, Costco, Kroger, Tesco and Walmart.
The letter said: "We warmly welcome the fact that Tesco offers a wide range of plant-based and lower-meat options to consumers; however, we believe there is room for further progress to be made."
Coller does not talk about the ethical implications of sustainable food production, saying investors are interested in returns. He says: ""FAIRR is totally about materiality, not morality."
It would appear to be a sage approach: market forecasts suggest investors in plant-based businesses can expect a healthy return. Some recent predictions show a huge upswing in the fortune of vegan products.
According to Manjunath Reddy, a lead analyst for food research at Technavio: “Veganism is gaining traction in the global market as a style of living and philosophy.
“People are increasingly adopting vegan diets because of the ethical concern toward animals and for a better environment. Morevover, people perceive a vegan diet to be healthy and prefer consuming dairy alternatives such as tofu.”
Stats released at the end of 2016 showed an enormous jump in vegan foods sales – according to online retailer ocado.com.
The staggering 1,500 per cent increase was put down to the number of people following a plant-based diet in GB (over half a million) as well as the burgeoning ‘flexitarian’ trend.
Jacques Thudichum, Buying Manager – chilled prepared foods at Ocado, says: “Consumer appetite for vegan-friendly foods in the UK is showing no sign of slowing down, as ‘flexitarianism’ emerges as the key trend of the moment. We’ve listened to our customers and have hugely expanded our vegan selection this year, adding new and exciting products each week to become one of our strongest categories.”
It doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, but at the end of last year, America’s biggest meat processor acquired stake in a plant-based meat alternative company Beyond Meat.
The fact that a traditional animal protein company is looking to diversify its portfolio suggests that major industry players know which way the market is heading.
It was a controversial move for some vegans, who felt that Beyond Meat was selling out, but founder Ethan Brown said: “I like to think that our nascent relationship is a hopeful sign. A sign that we may be moving beyond Oprah v. Cattlemen and toward productive collaboration that expands consumer choice.”
A vegan food delivery service set up in 2016 is looking to take mainstream food retailers by storm. allplants, founded by brothers Alex Petrides and JP recently received the sum from Felix Capital (which has never invested in a plant-based business before).
Co-founder Alex Petrides says: “We believe that by 2030, most people will be mainly vegan - not hippies or activists, just normal, casual and vegan.
"The plant-based food scene is growing by the day…It isn’t a fad. It’s a social movement.” Watch our interview with Alex Petrides and JP below.
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