For a while, plant-based meats - those complex concoctions of soy, oils, yeast and potatoes that are designed to look, feel and even bleed exactly like meat - seemed to be unstoppable. In 2020, with everyone stuck at home, sales of plant-based meat brands like Impossible, Beyond Meat and Gardein skyrocketed, increasing 45 percent in a single year. The arrival of realistic-seeming products amid rising concern about climate change seemed to herald a new era of plant-based meat consumption. Soon, it seemed, everyone would be eating burgers, chicken fingers and steaks - made purely out of vegetables.
Then, a slump. Sales plateaued in 2021, and some of the plant-based meat darlings - including Beyond Meat and Impossible - began to dip. Beyond Meat's stock price has fallen almost 80 percent in the past year; Impossible conducted two rounds of layoffs in 2022, letting 6 percent of its workforce go in October alone. Even as emissions and temperatures continue to rise - fueled in part by animal agriculture - and roughly a quarter of Americans claim they have cut their meat consumption, plant-based meats aren't succeeding as expected.