Alternative protein is going mainstream
The craze of superfoods — from pink pitaya to spirulina and the latest being pea protein — is essentially a demand for more nutrient dense foods with low carbohydrates and fats. Its increased demand is an indication of consumers becoming more health consciousness.
The other consumer consciousness trend is the environment. With the world population still on the rise, the demand for food is naturally increasing. The improvement of living standards is also seeing more people looking for meat products in the poorest areas of the world.
While in the more developed economies, the awareness of the meat industry and its impacts on communities, psychology of workers, health of consumers, as well as climate change, is shifting people’s demand for alternatives for meat and dairy industry.
The dairy alternatives have thrived with multiple options becoming easily and cheaply available in the market, such as coconut, soy, rice, almond, cashew, and others. While the meat industry has been picking up slowly, which has a lot to do with changing the perception of people’s understanding of meat.
The education systems have ingrained the understanding of protein to be synonymous with meat. While in reality, compared gram to gram, beans and lentils have a lot higher amount of protein that animal meat.
India, which has one of the highest number of people following vegetarian diets, sees people incorporating beans and lentils in almost every meal as a source of protein.
With proliferation of knowledge and increased consciousness regarding foods, alternative meat market is growing. Beyond Meat is a classic example of a company that is tapping and fuelling this trend. It successfully went public this year with its post-IPO prices surging 734% — indicating its potential to serve the increasing demand for vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
The number of restaurants offering vegan alternatives to meat and cheese have also surged. The trend is also seeing restaurants such as PizzaExpress, Wagamamas, Little Erth, Freedom Pizza and others offering larger vegetarian and vegan options in their menu.
So what are these foods made of? Broadly speaking there are a few verticals of alternative protein sources.
The tradition one is plant-based, which sees beans, lentils, buckwheat, seeds and nuts being blended with spices and herbs to create similar textures or simply provide alternatives in dishes.
However, the market for protein and nutrient dense sources that take far less resources to cultivate, surging. One of them in insect protein that will have a food market with £6.3 billion by 2030.
The others include cultured protein, better known as lab-grown protein, and Mycoprotein, which is sourced from “whole, unprocessed, filamentous fungal biomass”, commonly known as mold.
While these sources might take some time to be accepted by people in society, as it needs some serious consumer perception change, it is already seeing advances in the western world and is only a matter of time before we find them becoming popular and readily available in the Middle East.
Healthier for humans, animals, as well as the environment. Can you get on board with this change?