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Exploring Alternative Proteins

By April 17, 2023September 6th, 2023No Comments

Our Machine Analyst explored thousands of documents about Alternative Proteins to extract insights and trends, this article discusses some of the key findings.

Demand for Alternative Proteins is Growing

As the world faces the challenges of climate change and an ever-growing population, finding sustainable food sources becomes increasingly crucial. Traditional protein sources, such as meat and dairy, have been linked to environmental problems such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use. In addition, animal welfare concerns and health risks associated with excessive meat consumption have led to a growing interest in alternative protein sources. In 2021, a study conducted by the HSG FoodTech Lab at St. Gallen University targeting consumers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland found that over 50% of the participants were open to replacing meat with alternative protein sources. Additionally, the research conducted by Wageningen University suggests that product-related factors, such as taste, convenience, environmental benefits, appearance, and healthiness, are the main drivers of alternative protein adoption. The need for sustainable food options brings us to novel proteins, which have gained traction as an innovative and environmentally friendly solution to meet global protein demand. Driven by this demand, the size of the Alternative Protein Market is expected to grow from $49.70 million in 2021 to $126.84 million by 2028.

New Protein Sources are Emerging

Novel proteins are derived from non-traditional sources such as insects, algae, fungi, and other plant-based sources. These protein sources have gained attention recently due to their potential to address sustainability and health concerns associated with traditional protein sources. Our analysis shows Insect Protein as the stand-out term within Alternative Protein discussions linked with uses such as Protein Powders/Flours, Animal/Pet Foods and other human consumption.

According to Good Food Institute, In the past ten years, the alternative protein industry has received $14.2 billion in private investments, with annual investments almost doubling on average. Investment has picked up in recent years, with a 53% increase from $719 million in 2018 to $1.1 billion in 2019, the year Beyond Meat made its historic IPO, garnering significant media attention for the sector. With the launch of many new products and innovations, investments in alternative proteins nearly tripled to $3.2 billion in 2020 before reaching an all-time high of $5.1 billion in 2021, a time of widespread investor enthusiasm that resulted in record venture funding in most sectors.

The use of novel proteins is not necessarily limited to the food industry. In healthcare, investigations are exploring them as a potential treatment for various diseases, such as liver cancer and Alzheimer’s. Scientists at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine found that novel proteins significantly prevent breast cancer growth and spread. 

A Timeline of Alternative Proteins

Discussion Timeline: AMPLYFI’s Machine Learning technology identifies the novel proteins’ trends and findings over the years.

  • 2014 Apr – Novel proteins may lead to new ways to combat venereal disease
  • 2015 July – Researchers find high-protein algae that taste like bacon
  • 2017 Sep – MycoTechnology’s Mushroom Protein Lands a $35M Series B With The World’s Top Food Investors
  • 2018 May – Turning green algae into colostrum-like protein for infants
  • 2019 Jan – Novel Protein Plays Role in Preventing Breast Cancer Growth and Spread 
  • 2020 Nov – Nestle unveils new Purina pet food line with insect and plant protein
  • 2021 Oct – Printable steak, insect protein, and fungus among NASA space food idea winners
  • 2022 Sep – Bilbao-based Innomy picks up €1.3 million to make mushroom-based alt-protein

In the agriculture industry, novel proteins are being used as animal feed to reduce the environmental impact of traditional livestock farming. Our analysis shows that news sources, academic journals, and trade publications are increasingly publishing content that discusses sustainability and innovation in food production. 

In November 2020, Nestle unveiled a new Purina pet food line with insect and plant protein. In addition, insect protein has emerged as a popular novel protein source due to its sustainability and nutritional benefits.

One trend that has emerged is the use of high-protein algae as a food source, which has been found to be a sustainable and nutrient-rich protein source, with some strains tasting like bacon. MycoTechnology’s Mushroom Protein has significantly gained attention, securing a $35 million series B funding round with top food investors. Other novel protein sources being explored include turning green algae into colostrum-like protein for infants and the use of insect and plant protein in pet food. In addition, NASA has explored the use of printable steak, insect protein, and fungus as potential space food ideas. 

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Barriers to Alternative Protein Adoption

Using novel protein sources presents a range of opportunities for sustainable food production. Algae, insects, fungi, and other plant-based sources offer a more sustainable and efficient way to produce protein, with fewer environmental impacts than traditional protein sources.

However, challenges are associated with using novel protein sources, including acceptance as one of the main barriers. Many people need to become more familiar with novel protein sources and may hesitate to include them in diet plans. In addition, regulatory frameworks for novel protein sources are still in their early stages, and there is a need for more research to address the health and safety implications of these protein sources. By increasing the global market share of alternative proteins from 2% to 8% by 2030, we could achieve emissions reductions equivalent to decarbonising 95% of the aviation industry. However, to rapidly expand their market share, alternative protein companies need to appeal to a wider range of consumers.