A meaty conversation
Will the government help the alternative protein sector? A question the Social Market Foundation (SMF) asks as it says alternative proteins could replace a third of meat by 2040 but will require “effective” government policy, for this to be realised.
There has been little support from government besides warm words, however the savings that could be made in terms of more than 300 million animals from being raised in factory farms and slaughtered every year, according to SMF estimates, could influence thinking in some circles. I should point out the SMF’s report findings are sponsored by Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) although the SMF says it retains full editorial independence.
The report goes on to highlight the huge uncertainty that remains over the future of the alternative proteins market. While all but the most pessimistic forecasts suggest more people will be eating alternative proteins in future, estimates for its future market share range vastly from 3% to 70%.
SMF analysis suggests that improvements in cultivated meat production at mass scale will be critical. Without this, experts believe that alternative proteins’ market share will only reach 14%, rather than 32%.
The research is an interesting read but the uncertainty pointed out above does concentrate minds. The market does have potential but there will be winners and losers along the way. According to EY Parthenon, the players in the alternative sector will need to review their products to stay competitive while traditional meat producers will have to address the challenges of raw material supply price increases. This could open the door for alternative proteins, particularly if production processes and scale become efficient to help margins.
With a move toward to healthier eating, and environmental concerns, the perception surrounding the production of meat may work in the alternative sector’s favour. Furthermore, technology and innovation will be key in driving the market forward in addition to ingredients that add taste and nutritional quality.
The meat producer’s influence and knowledge should not be ignored for the viability of the alternative protein sector. Meat producers know what works and have an insight into consumer behaviour. Should they transform their business to suit and embrace adding alternatives to their portfolio? The answer lies in their ability to read the markets. Meat is here to stay. Meat consumption is increasing exponentially and there’s plenty of research indicating that there isn’t enough capacity to meet demand.
If we don’t look at alternatives, how are we going to overcome that?
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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