“For a few dollars at the centre of your plate, you can communicate what you’re about,…you can start by just doing something really simple, which is changing the protein at centre of your plate.”
Beyond Meat boss Ethan Brown is in favour of a tax being levied on meat consumption because of its impact on the environment.
The vegan brand founder made the comments in an interview with the BBC.
He told the news outlet a “Pigouvian tax” on activities that create adverse side effects for society could get people to slash animal-based products from their diets.
It will also further boost the plant-based protein market, which is already burgeoning as consumers are now more open to meatless options that are healthy, ethical and eco-friendly.
“If you look at shopper data that we have, 93% of the people that are putting the Beyond burger in their cart are also putting animal protein in,” Brown told BBC.
“That says we’re getting more and more penetration into the broadest swath of the market, which is people who are consuming animal protein, but again, are hearing this information about their health or maybe hearing about climate, or maybe uncomfortable with factory farming, they’re deciding to cut down on their consumption of animal-based products.”
According to Brown, environmental benefits are important “particularly for this younger generation, the ones that are flight shaming, and marching on climate, because they’re going to have to live in this environment”.
He added: “For a few dollars at the centre of your plate, you can communicate what you’re about, you don’t have to go and buy that Tesla right away or some other electric vehicle, you can start by just doing something really simple, which is changing the protein at centre of your plate.”
Plant-based vs Meat
While the popularity of plant-based meat is growing, the current price disparity between plant-based and animal-derived meats is one of the major reasons people are reluctant to buy meatless variants.
In a study commissioned by sports insurance brand, Insure4Sport, researchers found that supermarket customers are paying nearly 200% more for plant-based products in comparison to animal counterparts.
The analysis surveyed seven supermarkets, including Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s.
However, major plant-based companies are working to reach price parity with meat.
Earlier this year, Beyond Meat rival, Impossible foods reduced the price of its meat-free patties by 20% in US grocery stores.
Dennis Woodside, president of Impossible Foods told MarketWatch: “We want to eventually achieve price parity with ground-beef prices.
“If anything during the pandemic, consumers have shown an increasing hunger for our product because they can’t go to restaurants and they’re more health-conscious. Today’s price cut is merely our latest — not our last.”
Meat tax benefits
Rebecca Scheuneman, an equity analyst at US financial services firm Morningstar, noted that introducing a meat tax would help companies such as Beyond Meat and its competitors further because it will help them reduce the prices of their products faster.
However, the scope of benefit would “depend (on) how significant the tax would be”, she told the news outlet.
Scheuneman added that the ongoing pandemic and limited resources are also likely to make meat costlier in the coming years. “Meat prices now have spiked up in the last couple of years [as] disruption from the pandemic caused a lot of disruption and meat production which caused higher prices,” she said.
“And I do think that given the limited resources of the earth, and an increasing demand for meat, as emerging markets become wealthier, it is likely that prices for traditional animal proteins will increase over time.”
Consumers can help in ‘price parity’
According to billionaire Bill Gates, consumers buying more plant-based can help ‘drive down’ its premium price.
“You can send a signal to the market that people want zero-carbon alternatives and are willing to pay for them,” Gates said in a recent blogpost.
“When you pay more for an electric car, a heat pump, or a plant-based burger, you’re saying ‘there’s a market for this stuff. We’ll buy it’.
“If enough people send the same signal, companies will respond—quite quickly, in my experience. They’ll put more money and time into making low-emissions products, which will drive down the prices of those products, which will help them get adopted in big numbers.”
In a separate interview with the BBC. Gates added: “[Consumers] using less is a good thing. But, even more important is their political voice and what they buy.
“They can buy meat products from companies like Beyond and Impossible… And, as they do those purchases not only do they significantly reduce emissions but if they ramp up the volume of those products then the price premium of those things will tend to come down.”
- Read: Bill Gates says all wealthy nations should switch to ‘100% plant-based beef’ to fight climate change
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