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Analysts at Barclays "can't believe it's not meat," projecting huge growth for the nascent alternative food industry within the next 10 years.
The market for alternative meat can reach $140 billion over the next decade, according to a team of Barclays analysts spanning the agriculture, food and restaurant industries. That rapid pace of growth implies the animal-free industry could capture about 10% of the $1.4 trillion global meat industry.
"Although today we believe that there are inherent barriers to successfully replicating certain animal-based consumer favorites (e.g., t-bone steaks), what has been achieved so far in terms of 'meatless' ground beef, sausage and hamburger products has yielded positive initial consumer reaction," the analysts wrote.
"While lab-based meat is still likely several years away from hitting supermarket shelves, plant-based protein continues to gain ground vs. its animal-based counterpart, and we expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future," they added.
Though the brokerage cautioned that risks remain for anyone looking to invest early, the report highlighted potential advantages over the traditional meat market. Advocates of the up-and-coming industry are quick to point out that production doesn't harm animals, is less taxing on the environment and possibly offers a healthier product depending on sodium content.
Given those advantages over animal-based peers, Barclays argues that "there is a bigger market opportunity for plant-based (and maybe even lab-based) protein than perhaps was argued for electric vehicles ten years ago."
The upbeat outlook comes nearly three weeks after Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat enjoyed one of the most successful initial public offerings of 2019, soaring more than 160% in its first session. The company, which seeks to create "the future of protein," has developed plant-based burgers, sausage and other alternatives for those interested in moving away from meat-heavy diets.
The stock remains more than 200% above its $25 IPO price, trading up 5.6% at $82 per share Thursday.
Beyond Meat isn't the only food company looking to take market share from the entrenched players. Impossible Foods, which has yet to trade on the public market, is taking aim at the restaurant space and food giants like Tyson Foods and Nestle.
And while large U.S. food producers have started their own investments in meat alternatives, others are trying to partner with newcomers like Beyond.
The company received its first buy rating from Bernstein earlier this month.