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Meat Substitutes Going Mainstream in Germany: A New Era of Vegetarian Products?

October 1st, 2015

A range of new product launches in meat substitutes offer an alternative for meat-loving German consumers and have the potential to facilitate a long-term change of consumption habits.

Both German consumers themselves and other nations have long regarded Germany as ameat eater” nation with high per capita meat consumption of 66kg. Many Germans continue to feel that a meal is not complete if it doesn’t contain meat. Recently, however, there have been very different voices. Christian Rauffus, director at Rügenwalder Mühle, announced that sausage might become the “cigarette of the future”, as reported by several German newspapers, including Lebensmittelzeitung. In response, Rügenwalder Mühle, which prominently uses its heritage as a sausage-making company in its marketing communication and even in the brand logo, in December 2014 launched vegetarian versions of the brand’s cold cuts, which are commonly eaten with bread. And other companies have followed suit: Wiesenhof, a large player in poultry in Germany, first introduced vegetarian products for foodservice earlier this year and then in July announced the launch of its first veggie products in retail. As a consequence of such activity, meat substitutes in Germany are expected to be worth €122 million in 2015, showing both strong double-digit volume and value growth.

Meat substitutes have been available for a while, but remained a niche product with a per capita of 0.1 kg per person in 2013. The kinds of product being launched in Germany now, however, are focussed on the mainstream market. These new vegetarian substitutes resemble traditional cold cuts very closely and present a real alternative for consumers used to having a slice of cold meat on their bread, mainly for breakfast or dinner. Surprisingly, German companies that are traditionally associated with manufacturing meat products are now entering this market for meat substitutes, going so far as to launch meat imitations using the same brands as their meat-filled counterparts. It seems unlikely to appeal to consumers who refuse to purchase meat due to animal welfare concerns, but it may be the start of a new era of vegetarian products in the mainstream market.

This is because even if these products don’t appeal to committed vegetarians, there is a new group of flexitarians. These consumers do not entirely exclude meat, but are consciously reducing meat consumption. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, health considerations mean that many consumers are wary about the impact of meat – particularly red and processed meat – on their health. Secondly, some reduce their meat consumption for ethical reasons, which includes both concerns about animal wellbeing and about the environmental impact of intensive farming. They often believe that if they have less meat, they can have better-quality produce.

What impact will these new meat substitutes have on German meat consumption in the future?

Looking at the dynamics within the market, we do indeed see opposing trends, which seem to indicate that meat substitutes are developing strongly at the expense of meat. In 2015, meat substitutes registered strong double-digit growth rates, whereas meat sales were declining. The 2015-2020 CAGR for meat substitutes volume sales is expected to be 12%, whereas it will be -1% for processed meat volume sales. The level of growth for fresh meat is expected to be similar. However, comparing both actual and per capita figures for meat and meat substitutes, meat substitute sales of 13 thousand tonnes are dwarfed by the total volume size of fresh and processed meat at 5,210 thousand tonnes in 2015.

So, while growth for meat substitutes at the moment is coming from a very small base, and the impact on actual meat sales remains small, the development of meat substitutes will certainly be something to keep an eye on over the next couple of years, both in Germany and other developed markets. German consumers are expected to keep their taste for meat, but with ongoing research and development, meat substitutes are expected to further improve and become more varied both in taste and texture. This means they may certainly turn out to become a valid alternative for consumers, who – whatever their reasons – want to reduce their meat consumption in the long term.

Per Capita Meat Consumption for the Big Five Markets in Western Europe

Per Capita Meat Consumption for the Big Five Markets in Western Europe

Source: Euromonitor International

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Wiebke Schoon

Wiebke Schoon is a research analyst in the food and nutrition team for Western Europe at Euromonitor International. She is from Germany and holds a master’s degree in international marketing from the University of Birmingham. In her research she is particularly interested in cross-cultural consumer trends and company strategies.

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