Bayer sees potential future business in plant-based meat market

(Reuters) - A Bayer executive on Thursday said the company was closely watching the plant-based meat market which has seen booming demand in recent years, adding that Bayer could potentially enter the market as an alternative protein source provider.

FILE PHOTO: The so-called 'Chempark', the main plant and headquarters of German pharmaceutical and chemical maker Bayer AG is pictured along the river Rhine in Leverkusen, Germany, July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

“They are sourcing different types of crops and that also could create opportunity for us, being a company that is a plant-breeding company,” Bob Reiter, Bayer’s head of research and development at the company’s crop science division, said in reference to plant-based meat companies.

Reiter made the remarks at an investor event in St. Louis, Missouri in response to a question by an analyst who wanted to know what impact the growth of plant-based meat substitutes would have on the company’s business.

Meat alternatives have seen booming demand as consumers are looking to add more plant-based protein to their diet, amid growing concerns about health risks from eating meat, animal welfare and the environmental hazards of intensive animal farming.

Companies including Beyond Meat BYND.O and Impossible Foods, and even traditional meat producers including Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N, Maple Leaf Foods Inc MFI.TO and Perdue Farms are cashing in on the trend, selling sausages, burgers and imitation ground beef largely made from pea protein or soy.

Analysts say there are no signs of the meat alternatives market slowing, with nearly 40% of consumers trying to add more plant-based protein to their diet, according to research group Mintel.

Germany-based Bayer, which acquired seed and pesticides maker Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year, is the world’s largest seed and pesticides company by sales, leading the market in corn, soybean and cereal seed sales.

Reiter on Thursday said that in order for plant-based companies to produce at scale and succeed, they require efficient sources of amino acids and carbohydrates, which will bring them around to row crops that can be tilled and cultivated by machinery.

“We’re not going to scale peas to get to 10% of the alternative meat market,” Reiter said.

Beyond Meat’s latest burger is made from peas, brown rice, sunflower seeds and mung beans. Its chief executive, Ethan Brown, in the past said the company was exploring new protein sources, saying there are an “almost endless number of crops you can pull from.”

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell