Fairly or not, the COVID-19 outbreak has been linked to eating meat or animal products—and consumers are flocking to meat alternatives, and plant-based foods for a variety of reasons, first and foremost to benefit their health.

The Financial Times reports that COVID 19 is "reshaping the North American food market," stating that US sales of plant-based meat grew 200 percent in the week ending April 18th, compared with the same period last year, growing 265% over an eight week period.

The article confirms the recent prediction that the global plant-based meat market will likely benefit from the pandemic. US consumers purchased nearly 280 percent more plant-based meats in March, according to market reports.

The FT article quotes Bruce Friedrich at the Good Food Institute, as saying plant-based meat companies are less vulnerable in light of recent factory closures, as alternative meats require less labor, and the plant-based “supply chain factors are much easier to manipulate.”

© GFI
Stock in Tyson Foods, the largest US meat producer, was downgraded last week due to plant closures and staffing issues as hundreds of their employees were stricken with COVID-19 and five died at one plant. Meanwhile, shares in vegan meat brand Beyond Meat are up 40 percent week over week.

Chains like Bareburger report that vegan burgers now account for 50 percent of all burgers sold, and Tofurky reports seeing sales of its plant-based meat double in March and jump 36 percent year over year

"The COVID-19 crisis is pretty much associated with the consumption of animal meat and has created 'virus-phobia' according to food expert Fabrice Vriens, brand manager for Bareburger Restaurant in the UAE, who revealed that more diners are opting for plant meat than ever.

"We believe that is the main reason that consumers are increasing their plant-based food consumption. We have seen a rise in the share of Beyond Meat and vegan offerings in our total sales."

Last year more plant-based companies reported that their customer base defined as "flexitarian" but now, the coronavirus pandemic "has driven more of their customers to their plant-based options,"  Vriens says. Vegan burgers in the Dubai outlet are leading the trend; sales have increased from 35 percent in January to 50 percent of all burgers sold now.

Other brands have also seen sales spike amid the pandemic. Tofurky has watched its growth double in March, compared to January and February, before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the U.S.

"In March, our sales shot up around 37 percent growth over March 2019, which was almost exactly twice the growth rate that we saw in January and February, before the Covid-19 outbreak," Seth Tibbott, founder and chair of the plant-based brand said in a statement he shared with Plant Based News.

"Health, concern for animals, and environmental reasons all play a part in driving this upward trend, and with the advancements in flavor and texture of plant-based products, this is also a major reason for the category’s expansion."