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Alternative proteins market growth and opportunities — podcast

Audio-Alternative proteins market growth and opportunities — podcast

From chickpea to hemp and everything in between, what does the future hold for the alternative protein sector?

Today, consumers are more interested in protein than ever before, with FMCG Gurus research showing that 45% worldwide now monitor their protein intake daily. But not only are more people paying attention to the amount of protein their diets are providing, a staggering 65% of global consumers are actively seeking to increase their protein intake. As a result of this prowl for protein, it’s no surprise that both animal and plant proteins are currently seeing huge demand.

This month, Vitafoods Insights focuses on alternative proteins and this podcast episode deep dives into the global alternative protein market and explores some of the most exciting opportunities, alongside the most pressing challenges that an increased drive for protein brings.

Hyperlink to mentioned resources:


  • Tony Gay, Head of Technical Sales & NPD, Nutrition at Prinova

Featured voices

  • Varun Deshpande, Managing Director of the Good Food Institute India
  • Siska Pottie, Secretary General of the European Alliance for Plant Based food

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Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Monthly Thematic Podcast, where each month we highlight a different topic within the nutraceutical industry. Join us as we explore this month's theme: alternative proteins.

Lucy 00:21
Hello and welcome to the May edition of the Vitafoods Monthly Thematic Podcast. I’m Lucy Whittaker, Content Producer for Food Ingredients Global and I’ll be your podcast host for today. Today, consumers are more interested in protein than ever before, with FMCG Gurus research showing that 45% worldwide now monitor their protein intake on a daily basis. But not only are more and more people paying attention to the amount of protein their diets are providing, a staggering 65% of global consumers are actively seeking to increase their protein intake.  So, as a result of this prowl for protein, it’s no surprise that both animal and plant proteins are currently seeing huge demand. However, with animal protein being one of the greatest sources of stress in the global food system, this demand is highly unsustainable. Varun Deshpande, Managing Director of the Good Food Institute India, highlighted the problems associated with an increased desire for protein in his keynote session at Fi Global: 

Varun 01:23
In terms of sustainability, efficiency and safety, unfortunately the way that we currently source a lot of our protein, which is meat, eggs, and dairy made by raising and slaughtering animals at large scale, also known as factory farming, is highly, highly unsustainable. And the reason for this is very simple. We eat animals who eat plants. So, a chicken takes in nine calories of input for every one calorie of output, it gives us in the form of meat. And that means nine times as much land nine times as much water, huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, huge amount of chemical inputs, etc, etc. So we're using all of these tremendous resources to raise these animals, and chickens by the way, are the most efficient animal, pigs are worse, cows are much worse, in order to get these meagre returns.

Lucy 02:09
And it’s not just the issue of efficiency of course. If we think about climate change for example, industrialised animal agriculture is in the top 2-3 most significant contributors to the world’s most pressing environmental problems - think water use, think air pollution and loss of biodiversity.  So, you’re probably wondering, what’s the solution to all of this? Increasingly, health-, wealth-, and eco-conscious consumers are turning to alternative proteins for their fix. And contrary to what some may believe, alternative proteins are not about telling people they should switch out chicken for chickpeas or steak for soy - but simply enabling a switch to products which provide the same nutritional benefit with a lower cost to our planet and wallets! It's a win-win!  Looking at the alternative protein market as a whole, data from Frost & Sullivan place its current value at around 14.6 billion dollars. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly equivalent to the entire GDP of Malta in 2020!  Based on a compound annual growth rate (or CAGR) of 8.6% between 2020 and 2026, Frost & Sullivan forecast that the market will reach an eye-watering value of 22.2 billion dollars by the end of this period.  Looking at alternative protein volumes, we can expect an increase at the rate of 7.2% CAGR over these six years, which results in a total of 5.93 million tonnes by 2026. That’s a lot of alternative protein, as Siska Pottie of the European Alliance for Plant Based food pointed out during a panel discussion at Fi Global: Regions in the Spotlight: 

Siska 03:54
There was a recent report, which was released, which is called also smart protein, so it's European funded research. And they shared new data. So the data show there's also in Europe, a huge growth, when we look at the sales value of the two last periods, there was a growth of 49% which is of course, very impressive if you compare to the average growth of the food industry. And of course, some categories in some countries, for instance, meat alternatives in in Germany, they even showed a triple digit growth, which is amazing, of course. And when you then look within Europe to the absolute size of the market, I think it's Germany, who is leading the growth and then they are followed by the UK, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark and Slovakia. So, in most countries, this growth is driven by the dairy alternatives and most specifically by the milk alternatives. But in some countries like in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, the meat alternatives are really leading this trend.

Lucy 04:58
So, what are the odds opportunities for this sector? In terms of what consumers are looking for, plant proteins rank high on their wish lists, with 73% of consumers perceiving them positively, FMCG Gurus data shows. Whey protein comes in at a close second, at 68%.  Now, taking a closer look at active nutrition consumers, over half, so around 55% consider whey protein to be appealing. And when it comes to plant proteins, this rises to 57%.  You could say that consumers are expanding their alternative protein minds and to keep pace with this, many markets are seeing manufacturers move away from the traditional crops such as soy and wheat and towards the more exotic likes of chickpea, hemp, rice and even insect protein.  Soy and wheat, which have traditionally been the most popular forms of alternative protein amongst consumers, are likely to account for around 84% of the total amount of alternative proteins produced by 2026, with the less commonly used alternatives of pea and rice accounting for around 9.7 and 8.6% of the share, respectively.  And with several alternative protein underdogs quickly rising the rankings, this clearly opens up huge opportunity in the market. Tony Gay, Head of Technical Sales & NPD, Nutrition at Prinova spoke to us about these openings for both his company and the industry at large. 

Tony 06:26
With the increased awareness of health stemming from the COVID pandemic, and the environment becoming a growing concern, consumers are seeking natural, sustainable and often environmentally friendly ingredients. With many animal options such as whey and milk proteins fallen short in these areas, the consumer drivers now to pursue plant based options. At Prinova, we are well aware of this emerging trend and have a wide portfolio of plant proteins in concentrates and isolates. These include pea, rice, soy, pumpkin seed, and even emerging variants such as fava bean, chick pea and watermelon seed. The strengths of Prinova in sourcing and distributing plant proteins, combined with our experience in the intricacies of how to formulate with them, together, provide manufacturers with a single source partner for both raw materials and product development support.

Lucy 07:20
Where the greatest plant protein opportunities lie geographically is an interesting question. In terms of the regulatory barriers, and in the light of Frost & Sullivan forecasts, the APAC region might seem to offer the most openings. While in Europe, the rise in new product development focussing on protein supplementation, and growth in uses for these products also paves the way for opportunity.  Sports nutrition, despite being an important growth area, is certainly not where the buck stops in terms of opportunity in this sector. We can also expect to see growth from medical nutrition, from products designed for seniors, and infant nutrition and formula. There’s something for the whole family you could say! Now looking at baby formula for example, soy is widely used in the US already but due to potential allergic reactions to soy, infant nutrition is now eyeing alternative sources like pea and rice.  Yet, as with most novel products, challenges may arise when it comes to regulation and manufacturing. Taking baby formula as an example, some have highlighted that the requirement for extensive R&D on alternative formulations, especially those which are consumed at a critical life-stage, could be a potential barrier to production and overall market growth.  This is just one of several key challenges highlighted by Siska Pottie during a virtual Fi Global webinar last year: 

Siska 08:42
Main challenges are universal. It's not different in Europe than in the rest of the world. I would say first of all, we need a larger and a much more diversified to offer not only an alternatives, but also creating totally new categories. And there of course, I think the key nuts to crack remains taste appeal, but also price and convenience because I think we should address this to the flexitarians. These people they take the decisions for many different purposes; it can be for health, it can be for environment, can be for animal wellbeing. But the key driver so repurchasing, it remains the taste, the appeal, convenience, and of course the price. I think this is key. And of course, if you want to have all these products on the market, we need more research, we need more research, more innovation and also more investment in research and innovation. And then once we have these products on the market after the innovation, then of course we need a level playing field to have a fair competition. And once the products are on the market are available, then I think we also need to look to make sure that the consumers have easy access to these products and also a better understanding and education on the product. So that I would say are the key challenges to work on and that is the core activity of the European plant-based food line.

Lucy 10:02
All in all, the overarching sentiment amongst brand owners in several nutritional categories seems to be that these new ingredients are worthy of investment and will continue to gain popularity both in the market and amongst consumers.

Vitafoods Insights 10:18
Thank you for tuning in. And don't forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast, as well as any sponsorship opportunities. Our monthly thematic episodes are published on the second Thursday of each month. So be sure to stay tuned, subscribe, and even suggest to a friend. You can listen to all our episodes in your favourite platform, or you can also check our episodes as well as other editorial content at