Alternative leathers are poised to have significant impact on the $400 billion leather goods industry, according to Lux Research
BOSTON, MA, MAY 6, 2021 – Dwindling demand for cow-based products and growing interest in sustainability are driving innovation in leather alternatives, and now is the time to invest, according to new data from Lux Research, a leading provider of tech-enabled research and innovation advisory services. The $400 billion leather goods market is already accepting of alternatives like pleather, on its own a market in the mid-tens of billions of dollars, and with no one-size-fits-all solution, there is ample opportunity to partner or invest.
Lux’s new report, “The Next Alternative: Leather,” explores the wide landscape of alternative leathers and makes predictions on the timeline on which these materials could be seen on your next handbag or shoe.
Lux classifies emerging alternative leathers into four segments:
- Cell-Based/Cultured Leathers – Collagen-based leather from yeast fermentation; bacterial cellulose; stem cell and tissue engineering
- Mycelium-Based Leathers – Pressing mycelium (fibrous root structure of mushrooms) into a mat; can alter growth conditions to yield different qualities
- Byproduct-Based Leathers – Byproducts from the food industry, e.g., grapes, pineapples, mangos, or fish; grown feedstocks like cacti
- Other Leather Innovations – Miscellaneous leather technologies, including CO2-derived, bio-based, and recycled leather
“Cell-based leathers are high-risk but high-reward. After more than 10 years, these technologies are still in the lab stage, with companies optimizing their processes. They’re most suitable for high-end leather applications,” explains Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate at Lux Research and lead author of the report. “Byproduct-based leathers are in introductory stages, but some companies are already producing and selling leathers. They lack performance compared to incumbent cow leather and can benefit from partnerships to improve strength and durability.”
When it comes to leather, consumer experience and marketing are key to successful material adoption. However, with a growing eye on sustainability, there is a need for alternatives that not only deliver on performance but also have minimal impact on the environment. “Low-complexity products like byproduct-based leathers are likely to reach $1 billion in sales by 2025. High-complexity products, including cell-based and cultured leathers, likely won’t reach $1 billion in sales by 2025 unless driven by significant advancements in mycelium tech,” Hua says. If these leathers can reach scale and match the price of natural leather, they will disrupt the leather industry.
With the growing importance of sustainability, there is a need for leather materials that are sustainable but do not sacrifice performance. Given that the space is relatively immature, there is ample opportunity for companies to diversify their bets by partnering with near-term players and investing in disruptive longshots. Download the executive summary of Lux Research’s new report to learn more.
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- Executive Summary: The Next Alternative: Leather
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