Hype Falls to Reality in Dull Sales of Fake Meat

The Lost CowIt was lovely speculation while it lasted. Ultra-processed fake meat was going to save the planet and our health. Pat Brown, the founder and former CEO of Impossible Foods, claimed he could conjure up plant-based meat that’s “vastly better” than real meat. Even McDonald’s took the bait and began testing the McPlant™ burger. But unsurprisingly (to us anyway), all that hype is giving way to the reality of drooping sales for fake meat.

McPlant has turned into McFlop.

Wishful Thinking Meets Disappointing Outcomes

All the hype about fake meat products could only go so far before it came to clash with the reality of a mediocre product. The McPlant test ended without any plans to move into a full launch. The stock price of Beyond Meat immediately dropped by six percent and is now down to less than one tenth of what it was at its peak.

After a meteoric rise, sales of alternative meat products slowed and now are dropping. Brown had to step aside from his role as CEO last spring, hanging onto a title of Chief Visionary Officer.

Writing in the Washington Post, Helaine Olen had a rather simple explanation. Fake meat is not very appealing:

“It’s now clear that the hype got ahead of a sometimes less than tasty reality. Sales of plant-based meats in the United States are down by more than 10 percent from this time last year. The issue is basic: The problems fake meat were meant to solve – from the climate impact of industrial farming to the health impacts of meat – are all too real, but the solution it offers appeals to far fewer consumers than expected.”

The Power of Imagination

Hope springs eternal. Our imagination makes it possible to think up potential solutions to any problem we might face. That’s a good thing. Maybe cultured meat products will be the next big thing and actually succeed in nudging us toward more sustainable diets.

But “solutions” we dream up need testing, lest we wander toward colossal failures through unchecked wishful thinking. Sooner or later, hype gives way to reality.

Click here, here, and here for more on disappointment with fake meat. For perspective on continuing hope for a vibrant fake meat industry, click here.

The Lost Cow, painting by Gustave Dore / WikiArt

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November 8, 2022

One Response to “Hype Falls to Reality in Dull Sales of Fake Meat”

  1. November 09, 2022 at 12:16 am, Chester Draws said:

    Cultured meats are not going to save anything.

    If they are cheaper than real meat, then people will eat more. Hardly a win, except in some poor parts of the world maybe where they could do with extra protein.

    If they are more expensive, then few people will buy them.

    Initially they will only be good for burgers and similar. Now a burger, as such, isn’t bad for you, but we hardly need to eat more.

    In terms of climate, they are competing against a biological mechanism primed to convert low quality food, like grass, into meat. They are likely to need higher quality inputs than grass, so will almost certainly be worse for the environment.

    They will only appeal to ethical vegetarians who don’t eat meat based solely on killing animals. A very small market.