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    3 factors are driving the plant-based meat revolution as analysts predict companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods could explode into a $140 billion industry

    Plant-based “meat” is going mainstream, as grocery stores and fast-food chains jump on the alternative meat bandwagon.

    The market for alternative meat could reach roughly $140 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report released this week from Barclays. Currently, the market for plant-based “meat” is just $14 billion.

    Read more: Evidence is mounting that fast-food chains from Chick-fil-A to McDonald’s will be forced to add vegan menu items — or face the consequences

    Barclays posits that alternative meat could take over 10% of the $1.4 trillion meat industry. This is a goal that has been central to the rise of plant-based “meat” makers Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat as the companies target meat eaters over vegetarians.

    Here are the three factors that Barclays says are driving the meat-substitute revolution.

    Climate change and environmental worries

    A protester attends a demonstration under the banner “Protect the climate — stop coal.”
    REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

    “Sustainability is increasingly more relevant as consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, have become more aware of the damage that food production has caused to the planet,” Barclays states.

    Global beef consumption is one of the leading environmental threats to the planet. Cows contribute more to global greenhouse gas emissions than cars, with the average cow emitting up to 500 liters of methane every day.

    Plant-based products aren’t necessarily a perfect solution, with Barclays highlighting palm oil production’s links to deforestation. However, with climate change becoming “a more relevant topic,” Barclays says that companies have the “opportunity to highlight how their products address this concern.”

    Animal welfare concerns

    Retuers/David Gray

    With more than 95% of farm animals raised on factory farms, Barclays says that concerns regarding animal cruelty are making plant-based “meat” more popular. People are becoming more aware of farming industry practices and pressuring companies to change, as well as exploring plant-based options.

    “Rapid growth of animals in the interest of turning a profit more quickly saw livestock populations expand beyond available capacity, and higher densities changed the animals’ living conditions and types of confinements — such as placing chickens in windowless sheds, cattle in feedlots, and pigs in gestation crates — to the detriment of animal welfare,” the report states.

    “In extreme cases, the birds may also face sleep deprivation as some factory farms keep lights on all day and night to encourage more eating rather than sleeping.”

    However, most people aren’t giving up meat entirely in response to the mistreatment of animals. Barclays sees the biggest opportunity for growth coming from people who still eat meat, not vegetarians and vegans.

    Health and wellness concerns

    Fast-food chains are adding plant-based burgers to the menu.
    Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider

    People around the world are more health-conscious than ever before, with Barclays saying that wellness is now a lifestyle as opposed to a trend.

    Plant-based “meat” makers have the chance to cash in on people trying to be healthier. As people attempt to improve their cardiovascular health, Barclays cites meat substitutes as a way for people to cut red meat and cholesterol from their diets.

    However, many people remain confused on how to actually become healthier. And, many meat alternatives have just as many calories as — and even more sodium than — traditional meat products.

    “Besides people thinking that they are healthier than what they really are, they tend to address their issues with protein by focusing on taste and price, which could deter adoption of alternative meats if they don’t satisfy consumers on these counts,” the report reads.

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