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Fake Meat Goes From the Main Event to Trying Out for the Ingredient Team

After growth flatlined in supermarkets last year, plant-based substitutes are appearing in new places. Ravioli, anybody?
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Illustration: Vincent Kilbride for Bloomberg Businessweek

For several years, faux meat has come to U.S. grocery stores mainly in the form of burgers and sausage links, often in the coveted refrigerated case right next to the real thing. The arrival of patties from Beyond Meat Inc., Impossible Foods Inc., and a long list of competitors large and small at first translated into unceasing media attention and massive growth. But the continued hunger for fresh faux meat is proving to be unsustainable.

After surging 53% to $473 million in 2020, sales of plant-based meats in the meat departments of grocery stores increased only 1% in 2021, according to consumer products analytics firm IRI Worldwide. Whether that was a result of people returning to eating at restaurants or the fading novelty of meat substitutes, the result is that makers of faux meats may have to accept a future where their plant-based products may not be the main attraction on as many consumers’ plates.