Food manufacturers and retailers need to capitalise on the market for alternative proteins, which is growing by 8% a year and expected to reach $5.2bn (£3.72bn) by 2020, the Plant-based Profits report by the FAIRR initiative claimed.
Issues around sustainability, traceability and animal welfare were all given as drivers behind the switch from animal to plant-based proteins.
A growing awareness of a causal link between high meat consumption and some non-communicable diseases, in turn “prompting health campaigners, professionals and regulators to deliver a consistent message around the benefits of eating less meat”, was also highlighted by the report.
Nestlé and Tesco ‘best positioned’
Of the 16 companies analysed in the report, Nestlé and Tesco were found to be best positioned to benefit from a transition to alternative plant-based proteins.
In January, Tesco introduced 20 ready meals with plant-based options under a wide consumer brand, created by its director of plant-based innovation, according to the FAIRR report.
Other companies engaged included Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Unilever.
However, only three companies had set goals to increase their portfolio of alternative proteins (Marks & Spencer, Nestlé and Unilever), the report said.
Furthermore, all 16 companies lacked a coherent strategy for how to market and promote alternative protein products on supermarket shelves to drive sales, it added.
Costco and Whole Foods Market criticised
Costco and Whole Foods Market were both criticised for failing to adequately respond to investor requests for information or further meetings.
Costco, which has a large footprint from its meat sales, was singled out by investors for failing to recognise protein diversification as a material issue.
Founded by private equity specialist Jeremy Coller, the FAIRR initiative includes institutional investors such as Aegon, Aviva Investors, Coller Capital and Nordea.
“Our report shows that alternative proteins are rapidly going mainstream,” said Coller.
“From meatpackers to supermarket stackers, the global food sector is rapidly taking notice of plant-based alternatives to animal protein.”