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Plant-based food revolution is here to stay: Dunkin chairman

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Dunkin’s current chairman — and former CEO — Nigel Travis has pretty much seen it all in the food industry. And those decades of experience have led him to one conclusion as he enjoys semi-retirement (he sits on four boards besides Dunkin’s and is the chairman of London soccer team Leyton Orient) — plant-based food is here to stay.

“I go to see my doctor as you should do at my age, and all he talks about is plant-based foods. I really think it’s a trend — we are really happy with what has happened with Beyond Meat at Dunkin,” Travis, 70, tells Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview.

Who are we to argue with Travis’ call?

Travis’ close to 50-year corporate career has taken him from the leader of Burger King Europe (way back when) to the CEO of Papa John’s (yes, he worked alongside that John Schnatter) to the CEO of Dunkin that engineered a successful IPO back in 2011 and went on to push the coffee seller into digital ordering. The long-time top executive also handpicked current Dunkin CEO David Hoffmann, who assumed his role in July 2018.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16: The corporate logo for Dunkin', replacing the former name of Dunkin Donuts sits above the entrance to a store on 38th Street on December 16, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

One of Hoffmann’s first major moves as CEO was to sign off on a nationwide rollout of plant-based breakfast sausage sandwiches from Beyond Meat this year.

So, for those on Wall Street that think the plant-based food craze of 2019 is no more than a cannabis stock-like fad — powered by an unworldly response to Beyond Meat’s IPO and insane consumer demand for Impossible Foods plant-based Whoppers at Burger King — we encourage you to really dig into the subject and reconsider. By most accounts, we are in the early innings of the plant-based food revolution for several reasons.

First, researchers at Wells Fargo point to population growth that will stretch food resources over the long-term. The United Nations projects that by 2050, the world’s population will have surged to 9.8 billion people, up 27% from present levels. That strong population growth is expected to send global per capita meat consumption increasing by 25%. In turn, the planet’s annual meat production will likely have to increase by 75%, or 200 million tons, according to Wells Fargo.

The spike in population and meat consumption will place severe stress on livestock counts globally. Plant-based foods will help alleviate that strain.

Meanwhile, consumer concerns on the intake of too much meat remain on the rise. And so is the use of technology to develop better-tasting plant-based food alternatives.

Both factors alone are seen as powerful drivers of the future plant-based food market.

‘Outsized growth for plant-based products’

“Consumers are increasingly drawn to plant-based alternatives given rising concerns for health, environmental considerations, and sustainability,” state Wells Fargo researchers. “We expect that outsized growth will continue for plant-based products, both in the U.S. and globally, and as such, the theme should be a focal point for investors — not only for the impact of disruption to the existing state of affairs but also for new opportunities in an industry challenged for growth.”

Wells Fargo estimates U.S. retail sales of plant-based meat could reach $12 billion to $15 billion over the next 10 years. Currently, the market is valued around $5 billion by most forecasts.

Domino’s Pizza CEO Richard Allison tells Yahoo Finance his team has internally tested plant-based meat on its pizzas. “We are definitely looking at this, we definitely see that Burger King in particular has been pretty successful with the Impossible Whopper. If it’s something we think we can sell profitably at 6,000-plus U.S. stores then we will do it,” Allison says.

Judging by underlying drivers of the plant-based food revolution, Allison is right to be testing plant-based meat just like his peers in the fast-food industry. A bitcoin-like fad it isn’t.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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