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To achieve its potential, the alternative proteins industry must continue to nurture a truly global ecosystem

January 25, 2023

As the global population crosses eight billion, we can all agree that there is no single source of protein that can feed the world sustainably. Alternative proteins are the only efficient way forward, harnessing technologies and innovation, to achieve parity (taste, texture and price) and simplify complex food supply chains, in doing so reducing interdependencies, emissions, the proliferation of antibiotics and animal cruelty.  

For now, a large share of the investments in alternative proteins has focused primarily on Europe and the USA. Going forward, as these producers stabilize and look to truly scale to meet the needs of the consumers, they will have to build strong partnerships globally. With 60% of the population in Asia, it is imperative the region – and others in LATAM and the MENA – forms a critical part of the ecosystem, enabling technology transfers and exchanges, a coordinated regulatory framework and the appropriate infrastructure. From a regulatory perspective, we have seen Singapore lead the way and there’s also been a lot of emphasis in China from the government. This bodes well for the industry.

With a burgeoning middle class and given the correlation between higher disposable income and the increased demand for protein, we need to ensure the requisite infrastructure keeps up with the product innovations. Here, we are not only referring to the manufacturing capacity but also the human resources (STEM graduates): the need for scientists and engineers experienced in manufacturing and scale-up of processes. Considerable planning and deliberate allocation of investments will be required to address these needs and challenges faced by the industry and convert them into opportunities.

As an example, we believe countries such as India, with 70% flexitarians, can uniquely be placed to support the global ecosystem.

With 60% of the population in Asia, it is imperative that the region – along with others in LATAM and the MENA region – forms a critical part of the ecosystem

By leveraging and advancing expertise in biopharma, industrial fermentation and food processing, the existing talent in these countries can be harnessed to meet the infrastructural demands for domestic and global smart protein production. Therefore, it is no surprise we at EFFV have partnered with players in India, Hunch Ventures, to build the country’s first food-tech park catalyzed by the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet (GASP) and the Good Food Institute (GFI).

To succeed, another vital consideration is for alternative protein products to adapt and cater to local tastes and preferences. We are seeing Asian players go beyond the usual burgers and chicken nuggets and specialize by producing meat products that would be more suited for the Asian palette and cuisine, be it pork dumplings or even fish/seafood products, as the region is easily one of the largest consumers of fish and seafood globally.

Many of these companies are also focused on integrating protein ingredients into local staples, resulting in a more nutritious offering. This will foster economic growth in the local communities and encourage governments to provide the much-needed direct and indirect incentives to bolster the sector and, in turn, increase food security for the region, which is key for several countries in Asia and the MENA region. This would also encourage younger generations to pursue career paths focusing on tailor-made alternative protein courses to meet the needs of the industry, as outlined earlier. Aptly summarized by one of our colleagues, “Alternative proteins should serve wider food trends and meet consumers where they are, which is a much more diverse and authentic gastronomic place”.

Recent developments in cultivated meat – be it the regulatory approval received by Eat Just in Singapore or GRAS approval of UPSIDE foods or Aleph Farms’ cultivated steak being declared kosher – are all encouraging signs. It is no longer a question of ‘if’ alternative proteins will achieve their true potential but ‘when’. As an industry, we must stay the course and together overcome our fair share of obstacles and challenges.

We must systematically transition from our current inefficient food system, partnering with existing players and stakeholders, by striving for more to meet the needs of the future generations in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.

Ayan Dutta has more than 15 years’ experience in leadership roles around the world. Prior to joining Earth First Food Ventures, he was the Managing Director for Cargill’s Trade and Capital markets business with more than US$30 billion of AUM, leading offices in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. This article was republished from the January/February 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International, the industry's leading resource for alternative proteins. To subscribe to read future editions hot off the digital press, please click here

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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