The sustainable food solution market is growing at a rapid pace and there’s no better place to see this than at Proveg International’s Conference, which is Europe’s first and largest conference, focussing on new-protein solutions.
When we visited on both days (29th-30th September 2022), we took 4 important learnings from the conference, which are as follows:
Alt-protein investment is staying strong despite the ominous financial climate.
Whilst we’re seeing a slowdown in the pace of venture capital flooding into the alternative protein space, the uncertainty in the financial markets is not being reflected in the wider alt-protein industry.
Confidence and conviction remains strong amongst alternative protein investors in organisations creating future food solutions, especially those who provide meat substitutes and other alternatives to animal products.
Despite an expected macroeconomic-related valuation re-alignment, there is a prevailing opinion that the issues being addressed by alternative protein startups require action now.
The pivotal role of alternative protein startups is backed up by data that alternative proteins produce an average of 88% less GHGE than animal proteins.
helping support global Net Zero targets and supporting a long-term sustainable food movement that AT Kearney research predicts could occupy up to 60% of the global meat market by 2040.
Consumer data also shows the increase in climavores, those who make active food choices based on climate impacts and corresponding search volumes for carbon dioxide related food categories.
New-protein solutions need innovation to compete with meat.
The new protein solution segment is expanding at a rapid rate, with most organisations using similar ingredients and relying on standard means of production, of which none were designed for new protein solutions.
This means that much of the market is selling similar products, with branding being the key differentiator.
However some companies, such as a Synthesis Capital investment, Redefine Meat, were showcasing pioneering techniques, working with a superior mix of plant-based ingredients to create unique.
market-defining products such as their plant-based steaks, which uses 3D printers and “ink” to “print” the steaks.
The “ink” is made of plant-based ingredients like legumes and grains, which create the muscle texture of the alternative meat; it also contains plant fat, which mimics beef fat along with natural flavors and colors to mimic the meat in its juiciness.
Better ingredients, techniques and corresponding textures will form a new phase of new-protein solutions that have fewer ingredients and functionalities that perform as well if not better than their animal derived equivalents.
helping drive greater consumer revenue and becoming a permanent feature in peoples’ shopping lists.
Alternative feedstocks make fermentation cheaper and more sustainable.
Non-traditional means of fermentation such as precision and biomass show significant promise in becoming the important alt-protein production means in ages to come. Low cost production is crucial for organisations to have significant, scaleable impact.
Microbes are generally fed by Glucose in the majority of fermentation means. This however comes with significant cost and with high price volatility, beyond the sustainability concerns.
Working with a microbe and a bioprocess that uses renewable foodstocks creates more cost effective, sustainable means for fermentation at scale.
Arkeon, an investment by Synthesis Capital, uses a gaseous fermentation process to produce every amino acid using just three inputs: a microbe, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which enables them to produce alt-meat products, without compromising on taste, consistency or nutritional content.
The Archaea microbes used for protein production
4. US cultivated meat is round the corner but European regulation barriers maintain.
Whilst there was optimism around lab-grown meat products launching in the US within the coming 12 months, the regulatory challenges for Europe are proving a harder nut to crack.
This is to be expected given the need for majority authorisation by member countries, which slows any prospective company’s speed to market.
However non-EU European countries like the UK and Switzerland, which aren’t encumbered by such requirements, may yet be the first in geographical Europe to bring such products to market.
No matter who gets there first, the expected first route to market is out of home, with domestic consumption following.
The initial products will probably be both relatively simple to manufacture with more straight-forward approval processes such as unstructured hybrid products working off a singular cell type.
With that in mind, we’re expecting products from UPSIDE Foods, a Synthesis Capital portfolio company, to launch on the US market in the coming 12 months. Exciting times!
However with more complicated products such as lab-grown steaks, regulation and manufacturing complexity increase.
In spite of the hurdles, the submission of the first cultivated meat dossier in Europe is highly anticipated and could see the European regulatory landscape change quicker than anticipated.