Where’s the beef? For many Canadians, it’s not on their plates

While 95% of Canadians are familiar with so-called “mock meat” products from companies like Beyond Meat and Gardein, less than 40% have tried them according to a new study from Angus Reid.

The “Meatless Millennials” study found that nearly half (45%) of Canadians believe plant-based proteins are more of a fad than the “new normal,” although younger Canadians are more receptive to the products than people 55+.

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The study found that 58% of people between the ages of 18-34 have tried plant-based proteins, with 70% saying the movement is here to stay.

Among Canadians who regularly eat meat, 22% say they would like to reduce their intake, while 10% say they’d like to consume more. The majority (68%) say they are satisfied with their current intake and have no plans to change their habits.

The vast majority (80%) of people who have tried plant-based meat substitutes say they liked or even loved the taste, including 75% of non-vegetarians. People describing themselves as vegetarian, vegan or semi-vegetarian were “near unanimous” in their praise, the study reported.

Respondents were divided on whether the products are financially worthwhile, however—with 41% saying the value for money was either poor or terrible.

Among those who have not tried the products, just one-third indicated that they are likely to do so in the near future. Younger Canadians are more receptive, however, with 48% of respondents in the 18-34 age group saying they are likely to try the products sometime in the next three months.

Sales of plant-based proteins are on the rise, with California’s Beyond Meat seeing its revenues grow by nearly 300% in the past year after securing distribution deals with QSR chains including A&W, Tim Hortons and Whole Foods.

Barclays has pegged plant-based proteins as a global $140 billion market in the next decade, although Canadians seem divided about whether the trend will continue—with 55% saying they believe the products are here to stay.

Not surprisingly, people who are vegan/vegetarian are more likely to say that plant-based meat alternatives are here to stay than meat eaters (74% versus 53%). The study also found that people in B.C. and Quebec are more convinced of their longevity than those in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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The rise of plant-based proteins also dovetails with growing awareness/concern about environmental issues and climate change, with 31% of respondents citing it as their primary reason for reducing meat consumption. Nearly one-quarter (21%) cited health reasons, while 12% cited animal welfare.

More than one-third of respondents (35%) say that Canada will benefit from increased demand for more peas, lentils and beans—common ingredients among meat alternatives—while 21% believe the domestic economy could be harmed by potentially lower demand for meat.

Those numbers are higher in meat-producing regions like Alberta (where 35% say the impact will be negative), while sentiment in regions like Saskatchewan, the world’s largest exporter of lentils, is roughly divided equally—with 35% saying it will have a positive impact and 32% saying the impact will be negative.


Chris Powell