In a time when a health crisis is becoming an economic one, many businesses are going bankrupt and talk is about the recession to come. However, this lockdown did benefit certain industries. Streaming and video conferencing platforms have expanded, E-commerce companies have grown… as have plant-based food companies. This article will look into the effect Covid-19 is having on vegan businesses and the opportunities it represents for plant-based products and services.
The increase of infectious diseases
The latest coronavirus pandemic is only the most recent in a fourfold increase of infectious diseases over the past century. HIV, Ebola, Avian Flu, Swine flu and now Covid-19 are all animal in origin, passed on to humans because of intensive farming and the exploitation of wild species. Since 1980 alone, the number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled. Following the lockdown period, many people will ask how we can reduce the risk of future recurrences. Seeing as 75 % of emerging human infectious diseases have an animal origin, our relationship with both wild and farmed animals seems like a good place to start.
Livestock threaten herd immunity
Farmed animal populations use large quantities of antibiotics and, as a result, increase the chances that a strain of pathogen may emerge. After that resistant strain has emerged, it would be very easy to spread as farmed animals are both packed together in poor hygiene conditions and can only work with a selected and so limited gene pool. These factors lead to domestic animal populations having a very low immune resistance. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration has reported that 70% of “medically important antibiotics” sold in the US are used for farmed animals. A figure that keeps increasing and a “concern” for experts that identify it as a cause for antibiotic resistance. For the World Health Organisation, ”antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”.
Updating regulations against the overuse of antibiotics and poor hygiene conditions in domestic animal populations worldwide may happen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but not overnight. An alternative to animal products must be offered and quickly.
Wildlife can pass on diseases
Humans must also distance themselves from wild animals to prevent disease crossover. While avoiding contact with wild animals may be relatively easy in urban cities, it is not the case worldwide. The meat market in Wuhan was just one example of bushmeat, but it is far from the only such market. In today’s international community, it is a problem for everyone when the next disease from a wild animal finds its way into the human population. Enforcing regulations on wet markets may reduce sales, but it may also lead to illegal markets. The way to prevent the next pandemic is to offer an alternative to bushmeat.
Change has long been needed
Scientists at Global Virome estimate that “wildlife is home to 1.7 million as yet unknown viruses”. As we cannot count on governments to put the precautionary measures in place by themselves, we must take personal responsibility to prevent the future spread of disease. If not, pandemics will continue and this lockdown will only be one of many.
An option to limit contamination is to move towards non animal sources for our food, our cosmetics, our entertainment and so on. As people realise this, the trend toward plant-based alternatives will increase exponentially. The confinement period has helped to highlight areas in daily life where humans are exposed to animal diseases. Alternative ways of living such as veganism and flexitarianism are on the rise. Despite the many negative effects of the coronavirus, it seems like this situation could pave the way to a wider usage of plant based alternatives. It is an opportunity that vegan businesses and entrepreneurs need to capitalize on.
Plant-based: an opportunity with high Return On Investment
In the U.S., sales for plant-based alternatives doubled between April 2019 and April 2020, with a higher increase since the start of the lockdown in March. These trends have also been identified in Europe. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the meat industry worldwide. Now more than ever, investors are seeing the opportunities in the plant-based market. Even governments are starting to invest in plant-based alternatives. This is the case for Canada and Finland, who recently announced their investment in vegan food research, with $100 million and $2.3 million investments respectively.
China should also be seen as an opportunity for growth in the plant-based market. The Chinese population and economy are growing with a rising number identifying as vegan and vegetarian. Another sign of this opportunity is both the rise in newly created Chinese plant-based companies and the arrival of leaders in the industry such as Beyond Meat. This February, PepsiCo acquired the Chinese company Baicaowei, specialised in the production of soy and konjac sausages for USD 705 million. (We will soon publish a blog focusing on the Chinese opportunity).
When any new change in society goes through, several distinct phases can be seen. After the recent decline in meat consumption during the lockdown period, we may see plant-based alternatives consumption start to accelerate as the initial early adopters cross the chasm to include the early majority of consumers.
The problems that result from using animal products are coming to light because of the current Covid-19 health crisis. As a consequence, the size of the global plant-based market is growing and will accelerate. While the global economy has suffered due to Covid-19, there is still the opportunity for businesses with the right approach to grow and expand.
For a free evaluation on how best to approach the opportunities that exist for your business contact Vegan the World Consulting!