The impact series: chicken alternatives
Our food system is complex. Everything is connected – from land use to animal welfare to the environment to human health. The result is that the impact of changing something in our food system will be widespread. At the ProVeg Incubator, we have identified three impact areas that we want to focus on: chicken, egg, and fish alternatives. Today, we’ll delve deeper into the first of these topics.
The plant-based and cultivated food industries are growing at a phenomenal rate. However, not all products are yet reaching the standard that consumers want or expect. In addition, some food categories do more to reduce the global consumption of animals than others.
At the ProVeg Incubator, we want our work to have a major impact. That is why we focus on supporting startups that are capable of functioning on a large scale and removing as many animals as possible from the food system.
Based on industry research, consumer studies, and our work with startups, we have identified three categories that are particularly important for us: chicken, egg, and fish alternatives.
Why? Firstly, animal-based versions of these foods are consumed in staggering quantities across the world. To change that, we need to get delicious, affordable alternatives into the hands of consumers.
Secondly, alternatives to conventional chicken, egg, and fish products are in high demand. Consumers are already keen to make the switch and are just waiting for the perfect products.
The hidden facts
Every year, around 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food. Yet, some people still suggest that eating chicken is not as harmful to the environment as other types of meat production.
While it is true that beef production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of meat, this doesn’t make the poultry industry any less lethal. The impact of producing chicken in the way that we currently do is detrimental to animals, the ecosystem, and human health. From 1990 to 2013, global poultry consumption increased by 165%. This is not sustainable.
Our food system is so deeply embedded in the animal-based industry that a third of the world’s croplands are used to produce feed for animals. If we had used this area to grow vegetables or to plant trees, we could have been on a different path – in terms of world hunger, the climate crisis, and the preservation of nature.
Where do we go from here?
It is easy to read these facts and figures and think “ok, we are lost”. But we can see it from another perspective. As frightening as the poultry industry data is, the impact of reducing the consumption of chicken is enormous. What is key here is consumer demand, and we’re moving in the right direction.
The plant-based sector is expected to reach a value of around $8.3 billion by 2025. This means that we can expect to see more and more plant-based options becoming available, with potentially lucrative opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.
What’s more, in Europe alone, the number of vegans has doubled in the last four years. In addition, around 22.9% of the European population consider themselves to be flexitarians.
According to a survey by ProVeg International, plant-based meat that mimics the texture and flavor of animal-based meat is one of the products that consumers most desire.
As the plant-based sector attracts more and more attention, new players, technologies, and ingredients are coming into play. According to a Forbes article on top plant-based trends, 2020 was the year of vegan chicken. This was supported by rising consumer demand and a wave of new products coming onto the market.
There is such a diversity of plant-based products out there that it is now possible to please an increasing number of consumers. From fast food takeaways to ready meals to ingredients for traditional dishes, plant-based options are becoming increasingly common.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and new innovations. Plant-based eating is more than just another trend. The impact of moving to a more plant-based lifestyle is real and it makes a difference.
Currently, humans eat more meat than ever before. While the population has doubled in the last 50 years, the amount of meat we produce and consume has tripled, with the poultry sector showing the largest increase (measured in millions of metric tons).
We can change this scenario, however, with affordable, attractive, and widely available alternatives. For that, we need to encourage new ideas and innovations, seeking global reach.
Meet some startups
To play a role in transforming the global food system, several startups are already creating chicken alternatives from diverse ingredients, in different parts of the world. Some of the companies are graduates of the ProVeg Incubator.
Haofood is a Chinese startup making peanut-based fried chicken. The company’s first product is designed for use in popular Asian chicken dishes. Haofood products are currently available in restaurants across Shanghai and will soon be available to buy online.
Launched in 2019, this startup develops plant-based chicken strips and fillets – as part of its wider plant-based meat range. Based in Russia, Greenwise products are already on sale across Europe, Asia, and Australasia. The team has plans to expand to additional European markets soon, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
Based in India, Naka Foods has created plant-based alternatives for dishes such as chicken curry, chicken biryani, and chicken nuggets. The company produces alternatives to animal-based products using healthier and more sustainable ingredients, including jackfruit, spirulina, and chickpeas.
LikeMeat, founded in Germany in 2013, has developed a plant-based chicken analogue they call ‘Like Chicken’. Its products are available in more than 15,000 stores across 10 European countries. As a result, the company is one of the leaders of the European market in this space. Soya beans are the main ingredient of Like Chicken, GMO-free, and packaged with recycled materials.
The negative impact of eating animal-based chicken is huge, this cannot be any longer denied. We’re excited to see that so many entrepreneurs are innovating in the plant-based-chicken space and that consumers are ready to sample and purchase these products. Look out for our next impact-area blog, which will focus on eggs! Also, we are happy to announce that our next cohort, starting in April, will have startups from all three of our impact areas – chicken, egg, and fish. Keep your eyes peeled for news from the ProVeg Incubator and be sure not to miss any exciting updates from us!