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By Jack Ellis,

Cargill CEO Dave MacLennan has said that his company is preparing for a big shake-up in its business over the next few years, as consumer demand for the new generation of plant-based protein products eats into market share for meat from slaughtered animals.

"Our analysis is that in [...] three to four years, plant-based will be perhaps 10% of the market," he said at a conference held by the US National Grain & Feed Association. "We're a large beef producer and that is a big part of our portfolio. So there's some cannibalization that will occur," Reuters reported him as saying.

The Cargill CEO also said that Cargill doesn't expect China's domestic livestock feed industry to become self-sufficient anytime soon. MacLennan's comments came amid growing calls from Chinese authorities to ramp up internal production, even as the Asian country imported a record amount of grain for feed purposes last year.

Why it matters:
Cargill has been trying to increase its footprint in the plant-based protein space of late, anticipating the consumer shift away from animal protein.

The US agribusiness giant is a key supplier of pea protein to plant-based patty maker Beyond Meat through a joint venture with Puris Foods, and recently earmarked $475 million to expand its US soybean crushing capability.

Cargill has also launched its own range of plant-based meat alternatives in China. Its PlantEver retail brand is available to consumers following a trial period with enterprise customers including fast food chain KFC in the country last year.

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