The Price Gap Between Plant-Based And Conventional Meat Is Shrinking, New Analysis Finds
A new report published suggests that the gap between meat and alternative protein pricing is shrinking. ProVeg Netherlands commissioned supermarket researcher Questionmark to undertake a pricing analysis in Dutch grocery stores. Overall findings reveal that the price gap has narrowed by a significant margin.
Price comparisons were compiled over a five-year period, with later years highlighting a move towards price parity. Further findings include more than half of all animal-derived products now having a plant-based counterpart which is either the same price (33 percent) or cheaper (20 percent) than the traditional incarnation.
The Netherlands on course for plant-based meat price parity
ProVeg’s survey is the first of its kind to accurately roadmap meat and plant-based alternatives’ pricing in Dutch supermarkets. Large scale grocery retailers such as Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Lidl, Aldi, Dirk, and Plus were included in the study.
Questionmark discovered that soy milk and margarine are both cheaper than cow’s milk and butter. Dairy-free cheese slices, animal-free burgers, and schnitzels were cheaper than animal-based alternatives in 50 percent of locations. At present, just under half (47 percent) of plant-based products are priced more expensively than animal-derived versions. This has been attributed to higher production costs and supermarket margins.
Overall data shows that on the whole, a 2022 shopping basket filled with plant-based food items is expected to cost around the same as an animal-based one.
Why price parity matters
In March, Kearney released a report that suggested the plant-based meat sector will experience exponential growth if it can match the costs of conventional meat. Taste and mindset came second place as hurdles to mainstream adoption, but budget remains the biggest concern for consumers.
Achieving parity and appealing to more consumers will be vital in the climate fight. Observers have suggested that the plant-based meat sector is stagnating, after a booming year in 2020. This is due to sales figures stalling slightly in 2021, with the U.S. market growing by 6.2 percent. Alternative protein remains a key driver for sustainability efforts however and has been recommended by both the E.U. for health and the latest IPCC report for action against climate change.
Where to shop for plant-based foods in the Netherlands
Aldi figures proved. It had the highest share of more expensive foods of all the retailers, with a 67 percent gap, but also came out as the second-largest supplier of the cheapest options, with 33 percent of the market. This is thought to be because it offers fewer ranges and therefore, fewer foods fall into the intermediate category of affordable. Only extremes of upper-end and cheap are catered for.
Both Jumbo and Albert Heijn sat squarely in the middle, with most of their plant-based foods being deemed as cheaper or affordable. Both have since confirmed that they are taking steps to equal prices across a range of products. The move will be similar to Tesco and Co-op in the U.K., where both grocers have sought to remove levies from plant-based items. Co-op is a step ahead, with a ‘price parity promise’ in place that guarantees its own brand items are the same price as meat alternatives.
To prove that buying plant-based foods need not cost more, a misconception still held by more than half (55 percent) of consumers, hypothetical shopping baskets were created at each supermarket, with 12 items added to each in both plant-based and animal-derived formats. Jumbo demonstrated the biggest price gap, with the plant-based basket costing 75 cents more. Plus and Lidl both came in cheaper than animal alternatives, at 58 and 24 cents less respectively.
“These results radically break with the established image that plant-based alternatives are by definition more expensive,” Pablo Moleman, a ProVeg spokesperson, said in a statement. “Previous research has already shown that a largely plant-based diet consisting mainly of fresh plant-based foods, grains and legumes is considerably cheaper than an average Western diet. But meat and dairy substitutes still have a reputation for being very expensive. In some cases it is, but in others it is not. The Questionmark research shows that these differences more or less cancel each other out, which means that as a plant-based consumer it is not more expensive.”
Parity on everybody’s minds
Last month, Seattle-based Rebellyous Foods revealed it has been seeking to quash the price gap between plant-based and animal foods. Its ‘restaurant quality’ vegan chicken nuggets now match conventional nugget pricing, with scope to drop even lower. It cites automation as the key to driving its costs to all-new lows.
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