Alternative proteins: what does the future hold?

In this blog, we bring you the opinions of experts from the food industry on the topic of alternative proteins. What will we be eating in the future and why are alt proteins important?

The global food and beverage market is undergoing a dramatic change. Consumer interest in non-animal-based, alternative proteins is increasing and the food industry is developing new ingredients and products to satisfy demand.

Take the global meat market for example – a $1.4 trillion industry. According to a Barclays projection, alternative meats could make up a $140 billion slice of this enormous market over the next decade. Barclays analysts are actually considering new cultured options that are still years away. This means that they are suitably convinced by current protein alternatives and the expected growth of this market.

By 2050, global food systems will have to sustain a population of 10 billion people. The UN has declared climate change the “defining issue of our times” and leading scientists agree that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. The shift towards alternative proteins is not slowing down.

We asked a panel of specialists from the industry to share their thoughts with us on this topic. The same panel will be joining us for our first Future Food Series event in March.

Britta Winterberg, Co-Founder and CSO, Legendairy Foods:

“Almost 20 years ago, still an undergrad biology student, I heard about lab-grown meat for the first time. I can still remember the conversation I had with my husband about the opportunities of animal- and antibiotic-free clean meat. We would definitely be among the first customers when these products came onto the market.

“Little did I know that my path would one day lead me from plant pathology into the world of cellular agriculture and that I would get the chance to contribute to making dairy products more sustainable and ethical.

“We all know that feeding the world’s growing population is a challenge. I firmly believe that biotechnology and cellular agriculture will greatly contribute to a more environmentally- friendly future for our planet.”

The team from Legendairy Foods, an alternative dairy company. Britta Winterberg pictured far left

Dr. Bernd Boeck, Scientific Advisor, Alife Foods GmbH:

“We need alternative protein sources asap, as our current animal agricultural system has the potential to gravely impact the planet and its many inhabitants. This is due to the enormous negative impacts of land-use change, water dissipation, waste, and emissions. Feeding a population of 10 billion in a sustainable way is not feasible with animal agriculture, at all.

“Animal-based proteins have very low efficiency in terms of energy and protein conversion. There can be up to 96% protein waste in comparison with nutritionally equivalent plant replacements. Plant-based and cell-based alternatives are promising solutions to feed the growing population. They can also satisfy the world´s appetite for meat without harming people, animals, or the planet.”

Albrecht Wolfmeyer, Head of ProVeg Incubator:

“The trend towards alternative proteins is strong and sustainable. Consumer demand is increasing and the industry is responding. Plant-based meat pioneers Beyond Meat and Rügenwalder Mühle, for example, are working with pea protein isolates.

“Meanwhile, Startups like Vly Foods use pea protein to produce dairy alternatives. Algae are also gaining traction in the food industry, being used as an ingredient in alternatives to fish salads, burgers, and jerky.

“Until now, Soy has dominated the ingredients lists of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, but the kingdom of plants is much bigger. More than 300,000 species of plants all around the world have yet to be explored – maybe the next starter protein will be found soon to create the foods of the future.”

Red algae-based fish salad alternative from Incubator alumni startup Alvego

Csaba Hetényi, Co-Founder and COO, Plantcraft:

“At Plantcraft, believe that plant-based proteins will enjoy preference over animal-based products in the future. We can expect systemic changes due to sustainability, environmental, and public health considerations.

“Intensive animal agriculture, for example, is responsible for spreading zoonotic diseases such as the coronavirus. Often these come from pigs or chickens on overcrowded farms that the media calls intermediate carriers between wildlife and humans. This, coupled with growing antibiotic resistance, also due to over administering these drugs to farmed animals, creates the perfect storm and a deadly threat to communities.

“The future of food is plant-based and there is more than enough for our growing population. We just need to use creativity and ingenuity to create foods that are good for us and good for the planet, but also tasty, affordable, and easily available.”

Kathi Ohens and Csaba Hetényi, the founders of plant-based deli meat company Plantcraft

Gary Lin, Investor and Managing Director at Purple Orange Ventures GmbH will also be on the panel. Gary has more than 20 years of entrepreneurial and investing experience, having worked with many of the world’s most innovative tech companies.

He says: “My investment company, Purple Orange Ventures, is backing leading teams in the cultivated meat and alternative protein space. The key focus for me in the new decade is to support bold scientists to create truly transformative products and solutions that displace animal-derived foods.”

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