Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Germano Glufke Reis 

Location: Brazil
Academic field: Business management and food sustainability
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: The role of major retailers and supermarkets in the transition from industrial animal agriculture to alternative proteins in low- and middle-income countries: The case of Brazil
  • What We Learned From It:
    • Analyzing how supermarkets in Brazil promote plant-based "meat" compared with animal-based products, and comparing a plant-based products coming from companies that also offer meat (i.e. meat processing companies) with products from companies that only manufacture plant-based products (plant-based "exclusive" firms):
      1. 1. Plant-based meat is less widely available in supermarkets than animal meat.
      2. 2. Plant-based meat is significantly more expensive than animal meat.
      3. 3. Animal products are more often promoted through price reduction and multi-buy offers than their plant-based analogues.
      4. 4. Products from plant-based exclusive firms have higher prices, more fragmented availability, and lower discounts compared with plant-based products from meat processor companies.
    • To discourage the production and consumption of meat in Brazil (a country that is the world's top producer and consumer of industrial meat), and encourage the transition to alternative protein products, one should:
      • Increase the availability of plant-based products in supermarkets.
      • Lower plant-based meat prices.
      • Increase the presence of smaller and purely plant-based companies in retail outlets.
      • Reduce the promotion of animal meat products.
    • To achieve the above outcomes, one should:
      1. 1. Reach out to retailers (e.g. to propose that they make alternative protein products more visible and available).
      2. 2. Invest in research (e.g. to find alternative protein sources that have cheaper ingredients).
      3. 3. Raise consumer awareness of the benefits of plant-based products and the importance of plant-based exclusive firms.
      4. 4. Empower smaller and plant-based exclusive firms.
      5. 5. Reach out to policymakers (e.g. for financial support for plant-based meat research, for transferring subsidies away from animal meat, for strengthening alternative protein sector's entrepreneurial ecosystem).


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Major retailers and supermarkets in large cities have significant influence on value chain activities including the pricing and development of products. Lots of global value chain literature have shown how downstream players such as retailers can exert non-market coordination on other actors’ activities along the chain. This means if retailers champion a particular category of products over another, that favored category can enjoy many more advantages. Moreover, supermarkets can influence consumers' choice of products. Translating this into meat and plant- based alternative protein products:
    • If retailers prioritize meat products over plant-based protein products, this will present a serious obstacle to the growth and expansion of the plant-based products. It will also delay the transition away from a food system that relies on industrial meat to one that does not focus heavily on meat.
    • On the flip side, a consistent network of retailers that provides adequate support has been key to and remains crucial for plant-based meat firms to expand.
  • That is why understanding retailers' marketing priorities and strategies for meat products and meat alternatives is very important if one wants to boost or to suppress these products. But this topic is rarely explored by those tackling industrial food animal production, especially not for Brazil and other developing economies that produce and consume a lot of meat products. Plant-based meat alternatives have been available for some time in Brazil in most supermarkets, and they are known by many consumers. Furthermore, there are producers of plant-based meat alternatives of different sizes in Brazil, from small to larger companies. And the country has a network of well-established supermarket chains. So it is possible and important to study this topic in Brazil.
  • Another under-explored topic that this application addresses is that meat substitutes from industrial animal agriculture companies might receive more advantages from retailers compared with similar products from firms that focus only on alternative proteins.
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