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Plant-Based Future: New Solutions for Tomorrow’s Nutrition

The market share of plant-based alternatives is estimated to increase five-fold, from around two percent in 2020 to a good ten percent in 2035. Thanks to new technologies and intensive research and development, the number of new products is increasing at a breathtaking pace.

Planteneers is also seeing this. This specialist for plant-based alternatives has become a key player in the rapidly expanding plant-based market in just three years. Its portfolio has multiplied quickly, from functional systems for sausage, cold cut, and ground meat alternatives at the start of the plant-based era to a diverse portfolio from which customers today can make entire product lines in various categories. The choices range from plant-based alternatives to meat, sausage, and fish products, to cheese, dairy products, and deli foods. “The challenge is that we are the pathfinders for the trends,” comments Dr. Dorotea Pein, Director Food Trends and Innovations at Planteneers. “Our customers expect us to have solutions for the trends of tomorrow, today. This means we are constantly working with new ingredients and applications to develop these innovations and be able to respond early in all cases.”

One example is functional systems for fish alternatives. “These alternatives have just recently made enormous strides in appearance and flavor,” notes Dr. Pein. “With our fiildFish compounds, we cover the gamut, from classics like smoked salmon alternatives for eating cold, to hot foods like salmon filet and shrimp alternatives.” According to Dr. Pein, one highlight in the meat category is the development of products traditionally associated with haute cuisine, like alternatives to beef tartare and carpaccio. “These two examples alone show the direction the market is taking. Diversification is advancing farther and farther.” The cheese category confirms this. Using the numerous functional systems in Planteneers’ fiildDairy series, customers can develop a wide range of plant-based cheese alternatives, with systems for plant-based alternatives to cream cheese, feta, pizza cheese, block cheese in slices and blocks, and processed cheese preparations. Among the latest developments are plant-based alternatives to high-sales classics like cheddar and parmesan.

New Ingredients as Growth Engine

Alongside new products, new ingredients also offer growth potential, especially mycoproteins and cellular agriculture. According to the world nutrition organization FAO, the worldwide meat market volume of 360 million tons in 2022 will rise to 455 million tons by 2050. In this scenario, alternative products are more and more important. Mycoprotein plays an important role for several different reasons. It has many advantages, from the production process to health to sustainability and zero waste. “Mycoprotein already has a certain structure, but the flavor and color are neutral,” says Dr. Pein. “Health benefits are another aspect. For example, it has been scientifically demonstrated that mycoprotein has a high satiating effect, and furthermore boosts muscle growth, which is very important in senior nutrition.” Cholesterol and blood sugar regulating effects have likewise been proven. Mycoprotein also has a very good nutritional profile, being high in fiber and low in carbohydrates and fat.

Another plus point is its sustainable, environment-friendly production by means of fermentation, which is done in a nutrient medium with a raw material containing carbon, for example leftovers from sugar beet processing. These plant residues are inoculated with a mycelium culture and fermented. This is a great way to make use of waste streams. “In recent months we did our first application tests of mycoprotein in plant-based alternatives to meat, fish, and dairy products,” reports Dr. Pein. “The results were impressive.” Based on this experience, Planteneers is currently making prototypes of the various final products in order to present them to interested customers.

“Cultivated Meat Has Disruptive Potential”

Alongside plant-based alternatives and proteins made through fermentation, there is also an increased focus on cultured meat, also known as in-vitro meat. The main drivers here are the challenge of feeding a growing world population, climate and environmental protection, and animal welfare. “Both vegan meat substitutes and cultured meat have disruptive potential,” explains Katharina Schäfer, Team Lead Product Management at Planteneers’ sister company Hydrosol. For her dissertation, she is studying the opportunities for meat from cultured cells as well as the challenges this new protein generation must overcome. “It’s easy to get the texture, fibrousness, frying behavior, and mouthfeel close to conventional meat products,” says Schäfer. “For cost reasons, most companies will start by taking hybrid products to market, i.e. combinations of cultured and plant-based proteins. That will make it possible to improve the nutritional profiles of these foods.” The composition of cultured products can be adjusted flexibly. “For example, it might be possible to configure the production of cultured fat in such a way that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, to create a healthier product,” explains Schäfer.

The Plantbaser: Develop Plant-Based Foods in 20 Minutes

With the Plantbaser Planteneers offers product development of a different kind. This digital product configurator provides users with new inspirations at a completely new rate of speed. From idea to finished product takes just two weeks. Users can put together their desired product in 15 to 20 minutes, with no dedicated plant-based knowledge needed. Whether alternatives to fermented milk products, fish, meat, or cheese products, in two weeks test samples are ready to taste. With over 1300 recipes, the Plantbaser offers the world’s largest selection of plant-based products in multiple categories. The next category, baked goods, will be ready soon.

Networked Collaboration Creates Added Value for Customers

Whether plant-based alternatives, new protein sources, or innovative technologies, the Plant Based Competence Center is a seedbed for future-forward food concepts.  Here, the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe bundles the assembled knowledge of its various subsidiaries in a creative pool. With Planteneers, SternEnzym, Sternchemie, SternVitamin, and OlbrichtArom, customers get complete plant-based solutions for every requirement and every market. Product managers, nutritionists, food technologists, and marketing specialists from all these companies develop creative concepts aligned with the trends on international markets.

For the North American market, Planteneers is investing in closer customer proximity with the opening of a new office in Aurora, Illinois. Here Gretchen Moon, Vice President of Commercial Operations for North America, and her team focus on American customers’ special wishes and expectations. In September, companies met the team and checked out their product highlights in person at the Plant Based World Expo in New York City. Planteneers presented popular products from its line-up, including functional systems for making plant-based alternatives to steak, salmon, chicken, salami, mortadella, snack sticks, parmesan, feta, and cheddar.

As a global sponsor of Plant Based World Expo, Planteneers also offered other platforms for discussion and new ideas at the show, like the Culinary Experience Show in the Culinary Theatre and a Plant-Based Foods Association afterparty.

The next stops in Europe are the Plant Based World Expo in London and the FIE in Frankfurt in November. Show visitors are heartily invited to these events and to tastings at the Planteneers Booth.

What’s Trending In Plant-Based? Seafood Growth, Fast Food Availability, Ingredient Innovations and More.

Selfish Cow

As the plant-based food sector settles into a groove after the 2019-2020 sector boom, the landscape of meat-free manufacturing has changed.

Once dominated by beef and chicken analogues, the plant-based industry is seemingly moving towards less conventional products, experimenting with advanced technology, and gaining more governmental support than ever before. The result will, hopefully, be a varied menu for global diners–including flexitarians and curious omnivores–that supports a shift towards a more sustainable food system.

Building on trends observed this year, 2024 and beyond look set to witness the following within the meat-free market.

Plant-based seafood will continue to boom

The fastest-growing plant-based food niche in 2022-2023 is alternative seafood. Current predictions state that the global market is expected to reach a value of $2.9 billion by 2025, representing a CAGR of 23.5% between 2020 and 2025.

Reasons for the boom in seafood analogues are varied but are thought to mainly pivot around growing ethical concerns about the impact of commercial fishing, health concerns stemming from fish consumption, and the consumer uptick in seafood-heavy regions, such as Asia.

In addition, plant-based seafood products are becoming more sophisticated than ever, allowing businesses to target a wider gamut of consumers. These include sashimi connoisseurs, who can now swap out unsustainable tuna and salmon for ultra-realistic fish-free alternatives that have been classified as sushi-grade.

Refined dairy analogues

Plant-based dairy has seen steady growth in recent years, with sales increasing by 19% between 2020-22 alone. Now, the sector could be gearing up for even bigger expansion thanks to a number of major players looking to advanced technology to create the most dairy-like products possible.

Focussed on replicating the taste, texture, and nutritional values of conventional dairy, outfits such as the US’ Perfect Day, Israel’s Imagindairy, and Mighty in the UK are using precision fermentation to progress their product lines. The process allows dairy-specific proteins and enzymes to be replicated without the use of animals. These can then be used to create more faithful reproductions of various dairy lines–including yogurt and cheese.

Selfish Cow

As the technology becomes more widely available and cost-effective, it is likely that more alternative dairy companies will invest, leading to a widespread and general improvement in the quality of plant-based products.

Increased plant-based fast-food options

The fast-food industry is expected to place a higher importance on sustainability initiatives, as consumers have made it known that such factors affect their buying habits. Alongside chains looking to switch their packaging options to less impactful alternatives, plant-based menu items are likely to increase in number and availability.

Global QSR leaders–including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC–have already experimented with meat-free menu items, with most adding at least one to the permanent menu. However, as consumer demand for plant-based options increases, it stands to reason that more dishes will be added to a bigger selection of restaurants.

Such offerings will likely be the result of collaborations with plant-based meat manufacturers, including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, The Vegetarian Butcher, and more. Proprietary plant-based meats could be on the horizon as well, as they will allow brands to retain greater control over their recipes and end products. Taco Bell is already exploring this avenue in a bid to stand out from the QSR crowd.

Ingredient innovations 

Plant-based meat has evolved in recent years. Once dominated by soy-based products, the sector is now awash with more realistic options that utilize ingredients such as pea protein, wheat gluten, and jackfruit. In a bid to make ever-more juicy and satisfying bites, manufacturers continue to look for ingredients that will deliver the most realistic meat analogues, with two seemingly taking priority.

Mycelium–the complex root structure of mushrooms–is an up-and-coming star of the plant-based world. Sustainable, healthy and capable of mimicking the texture and taste of meat, manufacturers are excited about the possibilities. Moreover, consumers have already given mycelium products their nod of approval, with limited releases (where the ingredient has been declared safe for human consumption) selling out in record time.

Another focus appears to be the development of suitably umami and juicy plant-based fats to be used in alternative meat products. The Good Food Institute has already spoken out about the importance of fat development, in connection to the continued growth of the plant-based meat sector. Precision fermentation, bespoke emulsions, and fungi are all being experimented with.

Traction into new global markets

Asia, Europe, and the US have all witnessed growing consumer interest in plant-based products. However, the Middle East and Africa are expected to experience a surge in meat-free popularity.

Traditionally, both regions have been meat-centric but are now seeing the potential for explosive growth in the plant-based sector. It was reported last year that the United Arab Emirates has cottoned on to the alternative meat trend and as such, has sought to import popular products from around the world. This will likely continue and increase in the coming year as the Middle East has been shown to be necessarily influenced by global dietary trends, due to the region needing to import around 90% of its food. As plant-based eating becomes more mainstream in food-producing regions–such as the US and Europe–the availability of relevant products will increase and filter out into export trends.

Likewise, Africa is expected to more widely accept and experiment with plant-based products, as a route to food security. Driving the change in tastes are Gen Z and Millennial consumers, both of which are cited as being concerned about personal health and the climate, thereby looking to meat alternatives as a sustainable solution to both. It is likely that appetites will be satiated with both imported and domestically manufactured products, though there is ongoing litigation surrounding the labeling of plant-based items in South Africa specifically. This could impact the availability of lines and therefore, consumer awareness about them.

Government subsidies for plant-based producers

The meat and dairy industries have been subsidized by US and EU governments for decades. Current estimations state that the animal-based industries are in receipt of around 1,000 times more financial support than their plant-based counterparts. In turn, this is actively blocking what experts refer to as a crucial shift towards a more sustainable food system, if we are to avoid total climate catastrophe.

To meet net zero targets and fulfill COP pledges, governments around the world will likely need to start showing support for meat and dairy alternatives. Largely proven to produce far fewer emissions than animal-based counterparts in their production, plant-based foods are being touted as a valuable resource in the fight against climate change. As such, they need to be affordable and accessible for as many people as possible, making subsidies necessary. The political landscape also stands to support a shift.

With the US electing a new president in 2024 and the UK holding a general election in 2025, political pledges to support climate action are likely from most candidates and parties, to win support from increasingly environmentally-aware voter bases. This could facilitate greater subsidies for plant-based manufacturers.

4 Vital Steps for a Successful Plant-Based Retail Rollout

Selfish Cow

US retail sales of plant-based foods alone grew by 6.2% in early 2021, reaching a total market value of $7.4 billion. 2 years on, reports that overall retail sales in plant-based have slowed.

Brands now face new challenges, including increased competition from competitors and retailers alike, who have heavily increased production of own-label products. These challenges have placed extra pressure on retail rollouts to be successful. But what dictates a company’s ability to make a splash in a demanding marketplace?

Read on to find out.

Step 1: Brand identity is everything

A genuine commitment to sustainability and equitable food security are the driving forces behind many independent plant-based brands. Unlike other markets, which are often driven by strategic gap-filling, plant-based manufacturers appear to be frequently motivated–and defined–by their founders’ personal ethics and dietary habits.

These deeply personal investments create a unique value proposition in the plant-based retail space, forming the foundations of a brand identity that will resonate with like-minded consumers. This will prove vital to the success of any retail rollout, as consumers have been found to form an opinion about a brand within just 0.05 seconds, which will impact whether they chose to buy or not.

Studies have shown that the chief motivations for consumers choosing plant-based products include animal welfare, personal health and well-being, and environmental stewardship. Any brands that seek to position themselves alongside the same concerns should be able to foster long standing relationships with said buyers.

Case study: Heura Foods.

Founded in 2017, Heura Foods is a Barcelona-based company that has been clear about its mission from day one. The founders, Marc Coloma and Bernat Ananos Martinez, call themselves “agents of change” and seek to create a more sustainable and healthy food system. They draw consumers in by inviting them to become “good rebels” and to join in the fight against meat and dairy-centric nutrition.

Combined with vibrant and cheerful branding and well-conceived product launches, Heura is now thought to be the fastest-growing plant-based operation in Europe.

Step 2: Planning and promotion must be unique

To launch in the plant-based market, thorough planning is essential, but remember that no universal rollout methodology will guarantee visibility and success.

Selfish Cow

Leveraging accessible and cost-effective consumer insight tools–including Google Analytics and Google Trends–provides valuable information about target consumers and should be utilized early, to shape promotion strategies. This is important as around 65% of a company’s business comes from repeat customers, so gaining insight into what they are looking for and bagging that first purchase could lead to lasting brand loyalty.

The uniqueness of a company is a valuable tool for standing out from competitors and should provide a jumping off point for campaign development. On the flip side, emulating strategies used by others in the sector will likely draw comparisons, which is inadvisable. This is especially pertinent for independents when looking for inspiration at major players, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

Engaging promotions, strategically aligned with key calendar dates and supported by effective marketing content, are still considered a recipe for brand awareness success. Playing to the individuality of a company will only further enhance this.

Case study: THIS Isn’t Streaky Bacon

UK plant-based manufacturer THIS chose to unveil its streaky bacon analogue in December 2022, creating buzz ahead of Veganuary 2023. It launched into almost 3,000 supermarkets across the country and was squarely aimed at existing plant-based eaters, flexitarians, Veganuary participants, and vegan bacon naysayers.

The launch was supported by in-store promotions and tongue-in-cheek social posts that tied in with the brand’s wider image. Earlier in the year, THIS released a limited edition bacon-scented perfume, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The stunt saw the fragrance sell out in just 20 minutes and raise the profile of its existing bacon products.

Step 3: Launching online, in-store or both?

Choosing the right launch strategy can make or break a market debut, which means thinking carefully about where to sell products.

For many new plant-based brands, a 100% online retailer offers an ideal platform to gain recognition, test products, and gather feedback. This differs from D2C as online retailers already have the infrastructure to market products and provide sales data, without further investment. In addition, setting up an effective logistics chain can prove costly and difficult for challenger brands that are not experienced in the delivery of products straight to consumers.

Alternatively, brands might look at launching in-store and finding dependable distribution partners. This is crucial to securing a spot in the market, but it is not always easy. Even when a notable partner is confirmed, it offers no guarantee that others will follow nor that the products being supplied will be given good visibility. Responsiveness, flexibility, reliability, and a strong focus on quality control are sought after characteristics of any distribution partner.

A third option is to launch unilaterally; however, this can be costly and requires exemplary organization, including careful stock control and allocation. Launch strategies depend greatly on a brand’s goals, the types of products being manufactured (affecting hope they need to be stored), and budget.

Case study: One Planet Pizza

“When looking for a dependable distributor, lean into your network and your community. Some of our best partnerships have come through word-of-mouth, often a recommendation from another founder over LinkedIn,” Joe Hill, co-founder of One Planet Pizza says. “Let your community know you’re looking and make it very clear what it is you hope to achieve and what type of partner would help you do this.”

Hill is currently trying to interest Waitrose in becoming a distributor, to follow in Asda’s footsteps.

Step 4: Create buy-in from consumers

While becoming increasingly competitive, the plant-based market remains dominated by established brands. This means that challengers must differentiate themselves and carve their own niches to create a loyal customer base or ‘consumer buy-in’.

Alongside an established brand identity, factors such as taste, texture, appearance, affordability, a wide product portfolio, and prepared meals can create consumer buy-in. Companies can align their releases by identifying what consumers want (convenience plus easy access to healthier food choices that will work with their budgets). Once customers feel connected to a brand, they will likely buy into new releases. Data supports this, with findings claiming that 43% of consumers will spend more when they feel loyal to a manufacturer.

Case study: Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods has revealed that it has reduced its wholesale prices by 15%, in order to remain competitive in the market and to be an appealing option to consumers. The move proves that even the major players are not able to rest on their laurels or their 2020 sales booms.

The plant-based food sector is expected to reach over $162 billion in value, by 2030. With such growth will come increased competition for shelf space and visibility. Both established and challenger brands will need to double-down on their unique selling points and tailored consumer engagement to claim market share.

Where the Plant-Based Industry Is Headed: A Gartner Cycle Analysis

The “boom and bust” of meat alternatives? Analyzing the industry against the Gartner Cycle may provide a more accurate image of how the market is performing and what the future is likely to bring.

In the simplest terms, the Gartner Cycle is a visual representation of the development of new technologies. Data is presented as a graph that documents stages in technology evolution, including adoption, maturity, and social application.

The commercial relevance of the model should not be underestimated. When understood and used appropriately, the Gartner Cycle can offer businesses–and entire sectors–valuable insight into emerging trends and technologies. This, in turn, allows decision-makers to choose where and to invest to maximize company profitability and longevity.

The Gartner Cycle’s five phases

Spanning five definitive moments during the development and acceptance of new technology, the Gartner Cycle can be applied to various sectors, including the plant-based industry. The Financial Times reported as such, back in January 2022, when it claimed that the cycle model could be useful for identifying if plant-based foods are simply a fad or indicative of lasting dietary shifts.

The five phases are:

Innovation Trigger

The first stage of the cycle applies to when a new technology is first introduced. This could generate interest via a ‘soft launch’ or teaser campaigns. Excitement and hype characterize this phase, as people begin to consider the potential of the technology, despite there frequently being little or no qualitative information available yet. Much of this cycle is predicated on potential adoptees of a new technology imagining what it could do for them, in an ideal world.

In a plant-based industry sense, this was observed in companies claiming to have made meat analogues indistinguishable from animal products. Consumer interest was piqued and buyers were keen to try said products.

Peak of Inflated Expectations

This is when the hype surrounding new technology reaches its peak. Optimistic predictions about the technology’s impact are often made, with mainstream media commonly cottoning on at this stage. Early adopters may start to emerge as well, despite the new technology not being ready for full deployment or still experiencing teething problems.

Trough of Disillusionment

Reality hits. This phase sees the initial hype cool and a more realistic assessment of the technology (and its limitations) kick in. For those that took a chance and invested early, disillusionment is a real risk as there is potential to discover that the technology is not as mature or applicable as they hoped.

Beyond Meat’s infamous 2022 stock crash, which came as a result of soaring production costs and legal battles,

Slope of Enlightenment

Here, technology begins to develop further, and its capabilities become more apparent. Companies that wait to adopt this phase have a more realistic overview of how the technology can benefit their organization.

Plateau of Productivity

This is the final phase of the Gartner Cycle when the technology has reached its full potential and has been adopted as a mainstream option. Solutions have been proven, and the results are quantifiable.

The Gartner Cycle is a useful tool for understanding the progress of emerging technologies, plant-based foods included. However, it has limitations of its own, chiefly that it is only a model and can fail to accurately consider factors such as the global economic market, politics, and unpredictable occurrences such as health pandemics, all of which significantly affect meat-free manufacturers.

Where is the Plant-Based Industry on the Gartner Cycle?

The plant-based industry is growing. In 2022, the global plant-based food market was valued at $39.8 billion and is projected to reach $126.9 billion by 2032. The upward trajectory of the sector is being driven by multiple factors, including increased consumer awareness of the environmental and health benefits of plant-based diets, animal welfare concerns, and the development of new plant-based products that mimic meat.

The plant-based industry is–arguably–still in the early stages of growth, but the recent downturn in fortunes for more than one major brand makes it hard to pinpoint exactly where on the Gartner Cycle the sector is as a whole.

It may be still in the Innovation Trigger or Peak of Inflated Expectations phases, as excitement remains high, especially for new products that have never before been perfected. Add in evolving but still young niches, such as precision fermentation for alternative dairy, and there is a case for the industry still being in the initial phases. However, the industry’s recent struggles could indicate that the Trough of Disillusionment has been reached.

Mainstream media has used the dramatic drop in Beyond Meat’s stock prices and Meatless Farm’s recent fall into administration and subsequent rescue by fellow plant-based brand VFC to paint a picture of a sector in trouble. Claiming that the bubble has burst for plant-based meat and alternative diets, many reports fail to consider the socioeconomic factors that have impacted consumer spending, not to mention a potential drop off in health concerns as the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a distant memory for many.

There is potential to dissect the plant-based industry into specific niches, allowing for more accurate cycle pinpointing. For example, mycelium protein development is at peak hype right now. With a handful of companies manufacturing meat alternatives made from mushroom root structures, the potential of the ‘clean’ ingredient is being widely promoted.

On the flip side, established plant-based products made with large amounts of coconut oil and sodium are seemingly losing mystique and may reach a plateau, as consumers search for healthier alternatives to traditional meat.

Comparison to other sectors

While the plant-based industry is growing at an impressive rate (reportedly up to 12.2% CAGR), it is still small compared to meat and dairy, both of which have reached the Plateau of Productivity and are established in the global food system as accepted norms. Though animal agriculture faces increasing consumer criticism and production costs, the meat and dairy sectors are still expected to grow until 2030 and beyond.

Conversely, the plant-based industry faces a number of challenges of its own, including reducing product costs, labeling legislation woes, and the need to improve product tastes and textures. However, the industry also benefits from a number of trends that maintain hype about new developments. These include increasing awareness of the benefits of plant-based eating, celebrities endorsing veganism, and global events such as Veganuary.

Where the Plant-Based Industry Is Headed

It is difficult to predict where the plant-based industry is headed accurately. However, based on the Gartner Cycle and the recognized factors driving the popularity of the sector, it seems reasonable to assume that further growth is on the cards.

The industry is likely to move into the Slope of Enlightenment or Plateau of Productivity phases in the next few years, as health-conscious and ethical consumers embrace plant-based and flexitarian diets. Moreover, as production methodologies for plant-based products continue to improve, hopefully driving down the end cost and improving mouthfeel and taste, formerly skeptical buyers might commit to regular purchases.

At a Glance: How the Plant-Based Sector Became a Catalyst for Food Industry Change

Selfish Cow

Recent declarations from the mainstream media that the plant-based revolution is ‘over’ have resulted in doubts about the sector’s future. Underpinned with constant reminders that even major players, including Beyond Meat, have faced stock downturns, such articles have created a worldwide narrative that seems somewhat grim. In turn, this suggests a fading interest in plant-based products, but the truth is more complex.

Contrary to gloomy headlines, the plant-based industry has been on a steady upward trajectory. Sales of plant-based products–including refrigerated plant-based meats– have surged and plant-based food dollar sales exhibited consistent growth from 2018 to 2021, boasting a 54% revenue increase and a compound annual growth rate of 15.5%.

Looking at the larger picture and overall growth of the plant-based industry, not simply comparing dollar sales from the 2019-2020 boom era to now, gives a more comprehensive overview of the ongoing success of food industry disruptors. What’s more, the sector is anticipated to continue growing, to take larger market share away from conventional dairy and meat, but how has it gotten to this point?

These are the key ways that plant-based food companies have secured their permanent seats at the table.

Resilience in the face of resistance

The rise of plant-based food sales was initiated prior to the global Covid-19 pandemic and maintained its momentum as home cooks began experimenting with healthier and new products. When pandemic restrictions eased and restaurants reopened, trends showed that consumers were looking to try plant-based foods out in public and picking them from grocery store shelves.

Selfish Cow

In 2020, U.S. retail sales for plant-based foods reached $6.9 billion, and by 2021, they set a new record at $7.4 billion. Despite challenges in accurately tracking sales across multiple channels, the industry’s general interest remains robust and tangible. This points to more than just a trend; it’s indicative of a lasting dietary shift. Research supports this theory as it was revealed that over 2 million people participated in Veganuary 2022, the biggest sign-up since the event began in 2014.

The adoption of plant-based foods during the pandemic has been widely attributed to a desire to embrace healthier diets, alongside increased environmental awareness. Moreover, it was not only vegan consumers driving sales, with flexitarians and vegetarians also contributing. The message was that plant-based foods are for everybody and here to stay.

Understanding what consumers want

Plant-based food companies demonstrably possess a keen insight into the nuanced and changeable desires of consumers. Their ability to cater to both early adopters and the mainstream market paves the way for a more inclusive and vibrant food future.

Vegans and flexitarians are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential plant-based buyers. As such, focusing marketing campaigns and data analysis on these groups alone overlooks the broader impact of the industry. Moreover, depending on early adopters would neglect the vast mainstream audience that is increasingly embracing plant-based options in their daily lives. The key is to make plant-based food a choice for everybody, not a niche offering for the few and that is exactly what manufacturers have sought to do.

Selfish Cow

Retailers also play a pivotal role in identifying and addressing consumer wants. Grocery store shoppers can easily differentiate between premium and value-based offerings and they must be given the opportunity to analyze plant-based offerings in this way. Stocking a range of high-end and budget-friendly meat and dairy alternatives helps to educate consumers about the myriad of products available and curtails unfavorable comparisons. For example, a plant-based Beyond Meat burger is still considered an expensive purchase, especially when compared to conventional beef products. However, budget veggie burgers will offer comparable weight to dollar ratios, with no cholesterol and likely a smaller environmental impact.

To continue growing the plant-based market, consumer education and product diversity are paramount. Marketers and merchandisers have the opportunity to enlighten consumers about the unique qualities of alternative products, thereby fostering informed decisions and lasting dietary change. Meanwhile, manufacturers can begin to experiment with less conventional items in a bid to show shoppers that they don’t have to say goodbye to favorite dishes.

Retail support remains strong

While consumers are certainly creating demand for easy access to a wider selection of plant-based products, retailers themselves are seemingly committed to allocating shelf space to meat and dairy alternatives. This, despite economic challenges they are facing with high inflation and rising supplier prices. The latter remains extra pertinent for the UK, following its departure from the EU.

The sentiment among food service retailers is clear – plant-based options remain a central focus, because consumers want them. They also help retail brands to position themselves as companies that prioritize environmentally responsible practices, a niche that appeals to both boards of directors and consumer bases in an increasingly environmentally-aware world.

Where once a few plant-based products could be found scattered throughout grocery stores, increasingly retailers are seeing the value of grouping such items in a clearly marketed store segment. Whole aisles are now dedicated to meat and dairy-free items and clearly signposted for consumer ease. Such moves are a clear indicator that demand is proven and increasing.

The flourishing future of plant-based

Numerous players have entered the burgeoning plant-based arena and while established brands grow and smaller competitors may fail, overall the market will stabilize, over time. This could take the form of retailers scaling back on new brands in the short-term to promote new products from established brands, or unveil their own proprietary plant-based lines. The introduction of such in-house grocery brands stands to counter perceptions of larger brand decline.

It’s not just retailers that are paving the way for a positive future though as restaurants, particularly quick service chains, play a role too. Limited-edition plant-based offerings, such as the Beyond Meat/KFC nuggets, spark interest that can help to reshape consumption patterns. Supported by permanent meat-free menu items, such releases remind consumers that they can eat the foods they enjoy, with a plant-based twist and for a comparable price. In effect, there is no downside and no loss of convenience either.

In grocery aisles and on restaurant menus, the mainstream availability of plant-based options underscores the industry’s resilience and continued expansion. By 2024, the plant-based dairy and meat industries are projected to achieve market value growth of $7.9 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. If growth continues along the same trajectory beyond 2024, the plant-based sector will have secured more than just a seat at the food system table – it will be driving radical change from within.

Is Plant-Based Meat Set to Be Replaced with Whole Food-Centric Alternatives?

Selfish Cow

Widespread reports that plant-based meat is a sector in significant decline raises the question; what’s next for sustainable and ethical food trends?

While much of the naysaying surrounding plant-based meat can be attributed to inherently compromised sources–including the conventional meat and dairy industries–it is an unavoidable truth that in recent months a number of animal-free brands have fallen on hard times. However, the misfortunes of a few do not herald the state of play for an entire subset of the food manufacturing market.

If plant-based meat truly is experiencing a decline in popularity, it leaves a gap to be filled by another alternative to animal protein and industry insiders suggest that heart-healthy whole foods and vegetable-centric protein sources are set to become the next big thing.

The rise and plateau of plant-based meat

Arguably, 2019 was the beginning of what would be a fast-paced boom for the meat analogues niche. So much so that it has been reported that close to one-quarter of all food products launched that year were vegan-friendly.

The upward trajectory continued into 2020, resulting in the sector being valued at $1.4 billion. The Good Food Institute revealed that plant-based meat was a key driver for US retail sales, thanks to sustained growth between 2019 and 2022 that saw a 45% growth rate. Notably, the same report also revealed that repeat custom of plant-based meat was at more than 60% (63%), marking a potential long-term consumer shift away from meat.

Theories as to the rise in popularity of meat alternatives center around three main motivations: health concerns, sustainability, and animal welfare. The former became a pertinent factor as the world grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic but the stratospheric rise of alt-protein companies proved to be unsustainable.

Why is interest in plant-based meat declining?

Big names within the market have been held aloft as an example of the so-called “boom and bust” of vegan meat products. In the case of Beyond Meat, a lot of media attention focussed on personal falls from grace, plummeting share prices, and falling retail sales. Its singular story has been used as a marker of a sector in serious trouble.

Analysts have speculated that plant-based meat’s overall decline is due to a combination of cost, taste, and new trends. It’s no secret that price parity is a key selling point, with flexitarian consumers not always looking to pay more for a meat mimic that contains no actual animal protein. Flavor and texture concerns have also been raised as a potential sales-killer, with consumers claiming that meat analogues are not yet able to faithfully mimic the sensation of eating an animal protein product.

Earlier this year, the Kerry Group revealed data that claimed plant-based meat needs to be both tasty and delicious to convince consumers to buy it regularly. Additionally, findings included that diners look for deep umami notes, chargrilled, and smoky flavors.

Despite not maintaining 2019 levels of consumer interest, plant-based meat continues to weather the storm with brands releasing new products and announcing fresh tie-ins with major fast-food chains. And why? Because the health and environmental implications of meat consumption are more widely acknowledged and understood than ever before. With this comes a choice: change dietary habits or contribute to personal and planetary downfall.

The emergence of new protein alternatives

A new trend appears to be arising within the wider plant-based food sector that puts whole foods, including beans, pulses and fermented vegetables on the menu. What’s more, they are not trying to mimic meat in any way, nor are they aiming to replace products that do. Instead, they appear to be a whole new niche within the meat-free manufacturing world.

Three key players in the field are Better Tempeh, which produces flavored tempeh pieces for cooking with, Vegbloc, a new vegetable and bean-forward protein source, and Simplicity, which showcases fermented vegetable products. All three appear to highlight their nutritional superiority over traditional meat mimics, with Vegbloc also noting that it is minimally processed, to be a natural alternative to both animal meat and highly processed plant-based counterparts.

Vegbloc becomes even more interesting when you understand that its co-founder, Simon Day, previously founded Squeaky Bean, a well-known UK meat mimic operation that produces a range of deli meats, filets, and chorizo.

“Meat mimics will continue to have a big role in our food system I believe, but there have always been barriers to adoption amongst significant parts of the population,” Day told Plant Based World Pulse.

“When I worked on the meat mimic brand I created, reaction was split between fans and doubters. After leaving that business, I wanted to launch a product that would work for the latter. Something that would help people eat more plants and answer their concerns about the plant-based category as it stood. The barriers for some were mainly around perceptions of meat mimics as overly processed and less healthy, as well as a frustration with the constant comparisons to meat and consequent underselling of delicious plants!”

This potentially explains why, despite the death knell being rung for plant-based meat by the mainstream media, the meat-free food market as a whole is expected to reach a value of $77.8 billion by 2025. Moreover, predictions claim that 2020’s value will be more than doubled by 2030.

Rising numbers of plant-based eaters will drive food trends

“I passionately believe that plant-forward will become a powerful and much broader trend.,” Day told PBWP.

“With growing concerns around highly processed foods, increasing interest in gut health, growing understanding of the benefits of eating a real variety of plants and pressure on global land use, it seems inevitable to me that we will eat more plants. The good news is that it isn’t just necessary, it’s also delicious!”

Consumers are apparently being driven by a revitalized interest in ‘functional’ foods, alongside those that promote healthy gut biomes, making fermented products popular. This, in place of recreations of popular meat and dairy items. As such, companies such as Better Tempeh, Simplicity and Vegbloc are presented with an opportunity to take advantage of a slew of new or curious buyers.

Plant-Based Trends: Are Predictions for 2023 and Beyond Still on Track?

Earlier this year Plant Based World Pulse unveiled a white paper that used market analysis and expert opinions to make key projections for the plant-based sector. As the year’s final quarter approaches, it’s time to revisit some key claims and identify if the market is still on track for large-scale success by 2030.

Are major plant-based drivers still working?

The original white paper highlighted the five main drivers of the plant-based sector. Significantly, there has been traction within these key motivators already, however, widespread reporting that the plant-based bubble has burst has called into question the validity of claims that the market will maintain growth. Overall, this appears to be a baseless concern.

Consumers continue to drive demand

Increasing consumer preference for plant-based products was deemed to be a major driver of sales. This was tied to a rising number of the global population choosing to embrace flexitarian or meat-free diets. While consumer dietary shifts still appear to be favoring a reduction in animal products, for some companies, the plant-based uptake has not been enough.

It would be reticent to ignore the fact that two large meat-free brands have recently been rescued from the brink of collapse. Meatless Farm, a UK-founded manufacturer of meat alternatives, was acquired by fellow plant-based food producer VFC after falling into administration in June. Around the same time, Plant & Bean, another UK-based meat-free manufacturer also called in administrators, before being bought by Heather Mills.

Despite facing difficulties, the fate of these two large brands does not diminish rising consumer demand for plant-based foods. Both cited inflation and spiraling production costs as the reasons for their shock shutdowns.

Innovation remains a focal point

As exciting plant-based protein sources, including mycelium, begin to enjoy serious traction, so too do cell-based developments. Though not considered plant-based by virtue of its origin, cultivated meat is moving forward and being touted as an environmentally and ethically superior alternative to conventional animal protein.

In recent weeks, the U.S. has given the green light for lab-grown chicken products to be sold. The move makes the US the second country in the world to approve such foods, with Singapore being the first adopter. Domestic cell-based manufacturers–including Upside Foods–have been striving for approval from the US Department of Agriculture for years and the victory marks a significant milestone in food production.

Venture capital interest is in question

Once the darling of the venture capital investments world, the plant-based sector was recently reported to be significantly less of a draw.

The claims came from the Financial Times, which stated that consumers are less interested in meat-free products and, as a result, so too are investors. Indeed, using data from the financial database PitchBook, the damning article claimed that in the first quarter of 2023, plant-based meat products bagged $75.2m million in venture capital investment, down from $703 million for the same time period, the year before.

While these figures appear conclusive, it should be noted that investment is still reaching plant-based companies. This, alongside a drastic uptick in interest in specialist enterprises prioritizing fermentation and cell cultivation techniques.

Health benefits are being widely reported

Advocates of animal-free diets have long reported the health benefits associated with their dietary preferences, and now the mainstream media appears to be following suit.

This year has seen multiple scientific research reports extrapolated into mainstream news articles that declare a plant-based diet as a valuable weapon against serious and chronic illnesses, including cancer and diabetes.

At the end of 2022, it was reported that consumers were taking far more interest in health and well-being, likely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, a consumer trends analysis company GfK survey revealed that 44% of people sampled claim to actively seek out products and services that will allow them to live a healthier life. It appears reasonable to assume that mainstream acknowledgement of the benefits of plant-based eating is impacting grocery buying trends.

On the whole, the main drivers of the plant-based sector appear to still be pushing the market forward but it could be argued that institutional changes are fast becoming a key motivator as well.

Education and healthcare lead the way

Alongside consumer demand for, investment in, and reported health benefits of meat-free products come culturally significant campaigns and legislation. A number of significant developments and protests have placed the plant-based agenda at the forefront of the global population’s minds.

Chief amongst the pro-plant-based is–arguably–the decision by New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adamas, to make all NYC hospitals serve plant-based menu items as the default option. He did so to give patients access to “healthy food” which he described as “medicine.” The move followed a 2022 directive, also launched by Adams, to serve plant-based meals in state schools for one day a week, dubbed “Vegan Fridays.”

Educational establishments have also identified the importance of sustainable menu options. As such, college campuses across the US have seen meat-free meals increase in number, with major food provider Sodexo pledging to make 50% of its menus fully plant-based by 2025. However, it’s not just US students who are happy to ditch meat.

Over in the UK, students have been increasingly demanding that their university catering options remove all animal products, for the sake of environmental benefit. The Plant-Based Universities campaign aims to transform all higher education locations into meat-free settings. Should they succeed, it stands to reason that there will be a sharp increase in demand for meat alternatives, thereby suffering up the sector.

Are plant-based predictions still on track?

The global plant-based sector is expected to reach a value of $77.8 billion by 2025 and to continue growing through 2030, potentially to more than $100 billion. However, these predictions were made during periods of lower inflation and before the impact of the cost-of-living crisis made itself known, both of which have drastically impacted consumer spending.

Despite potential stumbling blocks it is important to remember that plant-based eating is no longer deemed niche and as such, more people are seeking to include meat-free days in their diets. Moreover, it has never been easier to substitute animal products for sustainable, healthful alternatives, especially as major brands look to create plant-based versions of their best-selling products.

Global conglomerate Unilever predicts that plant-based eating will be mainstream by the end of 2023. It identifies a number of trends that will contribute to this, including increased fast food options and climate-impact labeling on food products, alongside the development of plant-based product lines in tandem with conventional releases.

Overall, it appears that the plant-based sector is still on track for growth. Quantifiable 2023 sales figures will be key to adapting expectations for long-term compound annual growth predictions from 2024 and beyond.


Click Here To Read What’s Next For Plant-Based? Trends for 2023 and Beyond, and Other Whitepapers. 

Plant-Based Labeling Globally: Where Consumers and Companies Currently Stand

Plant-based food labeling is a hot topic worldwide, not least because there is no singular approach. With a myriad of different guidelines in place, informing the consumer and allowing manufacturers to aptly demonstrate what their products are comparable to has become confusing, and, increasingly, a legal matter.

Seemingly, the central issue is not the use of terms such as ‘plant-based’ and ‘vegan,’ but, moreover, the adoption of monikers and adjectives more commonly attributed to the meat and dairy sectors. Specific examples of ire-inducing labeling include plant milk brands using terms such as ‘creamy’ and plant-based meat outfits calling their products ‘sausages,’ ‘burgers,’ and ‘steak.’

While there is no universal labeling rule in place, individual countries and regions have sought to impose varying degrees of censorship on the plant-based food sector. Though some have–arguably–been high profile in their approach, success has been limited as the global plant-based collective has actively fought back.

Plant-Based Labeling in The United States

Currently, the U.S. has no federal regulation of plant-based food labeling. In short, this means that domestic products and imported goods alike can be labeled as they wish, with no limitations on terms traditionally attributed to the meat and dairy industries, but this only applies at a federal level.

Confusingly, U.S. states can impose their own mandates. As such, regions that rely on the meat and dairy industries have been keen to ban plant-based manufacturers from using ‘meaty’ terminology to promote their goods. Texas provides a clear example of this in practice.

Holding the largest number of cattle in the entire US.., Texas is a meat and dairy-centric state. With this in mind, and as plant-based alternatives began to enjoy searing popularity, back in 2021 the House Bill 316 was given the green light by Texas lawmakers. The bill aimed to prevent meat-free manufacturers from using ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ on their packaging.

More recently, Texas’ Republican Governor–Greg Abbott–signed into law a bill that now legally requires all plant-based products to be clearly labeled as such, using pre-approved words. In addition, such signposting now needs to be as large as product names, to avoid “consumer confusion.”

Texas is not the only state to have taken apparent umbrage at the plant-based sector taking market share away from conventional meat and dairy companies. Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming, and others have all attempted to censor meat-free manufacturers, though many face or have faced lawsuits from plant-based companies.

How Europe is Tackling Plant-Based Labeling

Unlike the U.S., Europe has a number of stringent regulations in place for plant-based food labeling. The European Union placed itself at the center of the issue by drawing up a list of terms that can be used to describe plant-based foods.

At present, companies are unable to label their products as ‘milk’ or yogurt,’ for example, even if they are qualified as being vegan or plant-based. However, manufacturers are able to market their foods as being an ‘alternative to yogurt.’ Similarly, descriptive terms have not been banned, allowing plant-based dairy firms to use words such as ‘creamy’ and ‘buttery.’

In 2020, the EU considered taking plant-based labeling censorship up a notch when plans to impose a blanket ban on terms such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ being used by anyone other than conventional meat product producers were floated. This resulted in a coalition of plant-based companies–led by the Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe) and ProVeg International joining forces to oppose the move. A majority of just 48 votes eventually defeated the ban.

Selfish Cow

However, just as a ban on ‘meaty’ terminology was rejected, the EU voted in favor of similarly restrictive legislation, this time aimed squarely at the alternative dairy market. Had the legal changes gone through, plant-based companies would no longer have been able to package their products in cartons or use recognizable descriptors such as ‘creamy.’

Again, the GFI Europe team launched an awareness campaign to block the censorship. This time drawing the support of high-profile celebrities, including Greta Thunberg, which helped to overturn the proposal in 2021.

Despite such defeats, some EU member countries have sought to impose their own rules. France and Italy, in particular, have taken steps to implement meat-specific terminology bans, though the former was halted by a high court order in 2022.

As in the US, potential consumer confusion is frequently cited as a reason for attempts to censor plant-based manufacturers in the EU.

Sitting within Europe but outside of the EU regulations, the UK is in a unique situation. As one of the largest consumers and manufacturers of plant-based products in the world, it makes little sense to impose costly legislative changes to domestic and imported goods, but the current Conservative government appears to be considering exactly this.

Selfish Cow

Guidance is currently being drafted that would see tighter rules surrounding the use of dairy-centric words such as ‘cheese’ and ‘butter.’ They could be removed from the permitted plant-based lexicon altogether, even when accompanied by further descriptors such as ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based.’ Even more concerning is that words spelt to demonstrate their dairy-free but comparable status could also be at risk, meaning that companies which have sought to use terms such as ‘mylk’ could be facing expensive rebranding.

South Africa’s Censorship Swing and Miss

One of the most notorious attempts to block the progress of the plant-based sector came from South Africa, in 2022.

It was announced in June last year that South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD) had implemented an immediate ban on the use of ‘meaty’ words on plant-based products. As such, it was reportedly preparing to seize all plant-based products that did not align with the new ruling, with shelves expected to empty at the end of August.

Plans were halted when the Johannesburg High Court stepped in and granted a reprieve that allowed manufacturers to sell their products, unchanged, until at least May 8th 2023. At the time of going to press, no announcements have been made to suggest the bans or seizures will be revived in South Africa.

If the issue is raised again, it is likely that the South African Meat Processors Association will once again be a staunch supporter. In 2022, it publicly backed the proposed ban and seizures, claiming that the use of meat-centric terms is “misleading for consumers.”

How Confused Are Consumers?

Given the apparent prolific global concern surrounding consumer awareness, ProVeg International commissioned a survey in 2022 to identify the impact of plant-based and vegan food labeling.

In addition to revealing that a majority of buyers prefer the term ‘plant-based’ to more vegan-specific or ‘meat-free’ jargon, the research found that very few individuals consider themselves at risk of buying the wrong food.

Tellingly, 94% of those surveyed said that they are not confused by plant-based chicken items being labeled as ‘nuggets.’ Moreover, more than 80% stated that anything labeled as ‘vegan,’ ‘vegetarian,’ or ‘plant-based’ is obviously free from animal meat. Just over two-thirds (76%) revealed that labels actively help them to make informed purchases.

Speaking at the time about the findings, Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr, director of corporate engagement at ProVeg, noted: “We hope these results will contribute towards creating a favorable regulatory and labeling landscape for plant-based products, particularly when we’re seeing uncertainty around such topics in Europe.”

Mycelium Dream: How Fungus Roots Have Captivated Every Sector From Fashion to Food

As the world scrambles to find sustainable food options and materials, one natural entity can, seemingly, do it all: mycelium.

The root structure of fungus, mycelium resembles a network of encroaching branches and is viewed as a highly efficient ingredient with infinite possibilities. This applies particularly to the plant-based world, where the root is already used to develop nutritious alternative protein products, high-end leather substitutes, and more.

A Sustainability Heavy Hitter

What makes mycelium the environmentally conscious source ingredient of the moment? First and foremost, it is an entirely natural product, found on forest floors the world over. Made from infinitely renewable sources and with no need for external energy to be diverted for its production, the root system grows quickly and efficiently, earning it the title of most abundant organism on earth. Aside from this, it is a powerhouse of regeneration, dispensing vital nutrients into soil as it breaks down and reforms.

In nature, mycelium carries out vital functions, including improving water efficiency and nutrient acceptance of many plants. It is also a valuable food source for a plethora of animals, but it is in the commercial sphere that its full potential is beginning to come into focus.

Thanks to the robust nutritional values of fungus roots structures, including high protein and fiber levels, they are increasingly used in sustainable food production, apparently focusing on creating meat alternatives. But this is not the only sector to have uncovered the vast potential of ‘mushrooms.’

Alongside animal meat, mycelium is being used to replace several other conventional products. So far, these include–but are not limited to–leather, single-use plastic packaging, insulation, and bricks (yes, really), all of which have been created using fermentation.

Though researchers have yet to unlock mycelium’s full potential, some products are already commercially available.

Mycelium ‘Meat’ as The New Alternative Protein

Arguably, mycelium’s most voracious step forward into the consumer sphere is through its fermentation to produce viable meat alternatives.

The newest development in the mycoprotein (a term coined by Quorn in the 1980s) sector, mycelium allows manufacturers to tap into its natural umami taste to create a variety of meat-like products. These can include chicken, beef, and fish, all of which can be made as ‘whole cuts,’ in a step away from more traditional nuggets or pieces. This represents a major milestone for alternative protein and can entice more omnivore consumers to try plant-based steaks and cutlets.

While mimicking the texture and flavor of animal protein, mycelium meat contains zero trans fat and cholesterol and significantly less saturated fat, making it a healthier option. It is also a far more sustainable alternative that carries no animal welfare concerns, both of which are serious considerations for today’s consumers.

As a result, mycelium meat manufacturers are increasing in number and enjoying significant success with their proprietary launches. US-based Meati is a prime example of what is possible with mycelium and consumer openness to a sustainable alternative to animal protein.

In 2022, the company announced pre-orders for its highly anticipated whole-cut chicken-style cutlets. It was the first direct-to-consumer offering, with every product selling out in under 24 hours. Reportedly, 1,116 cutlets were claimed in the first hour alone. Since then, Meati has continued to grow, committing to an 80,000 square foot production facility called the ‘Mega Ranch’ that–when fully operational– will have gargantuan capacity. Meati president Scott Tassani claimed that the site will be able to produce the equivalent amount of meat to 4,500 cows, every 24 hours.

Mycelium Fermentation Technology Moves Forward

While mycelium appears to offer enormous potential for a drastic food system shake-up, investing in the necessary industrial fermentation equipment and expertise is costly. This maintains the ongoing niche factor of the mycoprotein sector. However, in a bid to remove cost and experience barriers, one former mycoprotein manufacturer has turned its attention to providing equipment to other manufacturers.

Kynda, formerly Keen 4 Greens, believes in the power of mycelium to change the current unsustainable food system so much that it has moved away from proprietary production of mycelium meat alternatives. It has now developed plug & play fermentation technology that will allow other manufacturers to tap into the market quickly and with cost-efficiency as a priority.

“We started with mycelium fermentation technology since it offers various product and cost advantages,” Daniel MacGowan-von Holstein, Kynda’s CEO, explained. “Not only is it high in protein and fiber, comes with a meat-like texture and umami flavor, it is clean label and contains all 9 essential amino acids. It also offers consistent quality and security of supply and increased resource and price efficiency (e.g. by-product utilization).”

From Forest Floor to Fashion Catwalks

Mycelium as a meat alternative is an exciting and ongoing development but it is also making waves with its fashion credentials. Thanks to a number of brands including Adidas and Lululemon, plus luxury designer Stella McCartney, mycelium-based leather alternatives are gaining traction and taking opportunities away from conventional leather suppliers.

At the center of the development is San Francisco-based biotech company Bolt Threads. Claiming to be on a mission to create “sustainable versions of the materials people already know and love,” it has enjoyed success with its ‘Mylo Unleather’ line, which is promoted as a mycelium-based alternative to animal and synthetic leathers. Created in under two weeks, using fermentation processes powered by renewable energy sources and vertical farming techniques that minimize land use, Bolt Threads claims to have landed on a truly comparable material to animal skin that treads far more gently on the earth.

Buttery-soft Mylo Is now being used across a vast spectrum of consumer products, from designer handbags to sneakers, and even luxury cars. As the material filters down into varying price points, the ‘leather as default’ consumer mindset will naturally shift to accept sustainable options.

Mycelium Market Predictions

In 2021 the global mycelium market was valued at $2.65 billion. This is expected to grow significantly–at a compound annual rate of 7.80%–to reach $5.21 billion by 2030.

The sector is expected to be largely bolstered by food manufacturing growth, alongside new innovations still in their infancy, such as building materials, skincare products, and more.

Analyzing How Plant-Based Businesses Can Help To Feed 10 billion People by 2050

By 2050 the global population is set to reach 10 billion people; there is a significant shortfall between the amount of food available today and the amount needed to feed that many people in the future. A plant-based food system has frequently been suggested as a less taxing solution for the planet as it requires fewer resources compared to raising and feeding livestock.

Population growth is not a new phenomenon or problem; however, due to the unsustainable nature of animal agriculture, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a population that continues to grow. The animal agricultural industry is inefficient regarding land usage and requires substantial government bailouts to stay financially afloat.

A Plant-Based Food System

In 2018, The World Resources Institute created a five-step plan to address the issue of feeding the population. The first two points directly engage with the benefits of plant-based eating. The institute suggests that the demand for food should be reduced by managing waste and consuming a more sustainable diet. Secondly, food production should be increased without expanding agricultural land. This would lead to a sustainable food future.

Although the institute champions reducing the consumption of animal products on environmental grounds, unfortunately, it does not recognize that an entirely plant-based food system is the future. This is problematic, especially when considering the levels of waste and inefficiency involved in the animal agriculture industry. George Monbiot, however, takes a much more direct approach when discussing the issue; he uses data to highlight just how many people could be fed on a new system.

Monbiot calculates in his article for the Guardian that Britain alone could feed 200 million people on an entirely plant-based diet, which is over three times its current population. To achieve this, a more efficient system needs to be adopted, one that would see the consumers eat the grains and pulses themselves rather than feed them to livestock. This would free up large amounts of land for nature and allow the growing population in Britain to be accommodated. Simply put, more land would be available because fewer crops would need to be grown if they were eaten directly. A plant-based system is undoubtedly the solution to feeding a growing population.

Feeding The Population

This also applies to a global population that exceeded 8 billion people in 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down as it is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. Monbiot argues that there are enough calories to feed everybody on Earth, despite chronic hunger and poverty in parts of the world.

In his article, Monbiot writes that “almost half these calories are lost, mainly through feeding the food to farm animals, but also through using it for other purposes (such as biofuels) and through waste. Even so, in principle, there is more than enough for everyone, if it were affordable and well distributed.”

And this is the crux: it needs to be well distributed. Half the calories that are grown are fed to livestock. Rich nations claim to produce large quantities of meat themselves, but they only do so by importing huge quantities of grain. This is primarily soya from South America, which devastates the rainforest because of the huge quantities needed. This results in nations requiring vast amounts of land to grow crops for their food. This land requirement can be drastically reduced through plant-based eating.

What Can Businesses Do?

If the global population shifted to a plant-based diet, the global land use for agriculture would be reduced by 75%, according to Our World in Data. Because of this, we could sustain a much larger population and free up vast stretches of land that could be used for re-wilding. But how can plant-based businesses help with this switch? It is very clear from the data that they could feed a growing population with ease if they replaced the animal agricultural industry, but how can they establish that they must be the leading food supplier?

The value of the plant-based food industry will double to $92 billion by 2027, according to one report. The report also suggests that this increase is driven by heightened levels of food awareness, with environmental arguments at the front of consumers’ minds. The report states that new developments in the sector “emerge every year, paving the way for a global transition to a much more just, safe and sustainable food system.” This growth is expected to continue with a significant profit expected for the sector.

Plant-based businesses should actively lobby the government for change. They can highlight the humanitarian benefits of their products, along with the key fact that they do not need government bailouts to make a profit. Businesses can come together to form collectives; such was the case with the Plant Based Food Alliance in 2021. The alliance is a coalition of organizations in the UK that seek to place plant-based food alternatives at the center of a transition towards a sustainable food system. Similar alliances exist in Europe and America. Businesses should become active in such networks and work to create more change collectively, directly demonstrating to the government that they are the future.

Naturally businesses that are not already plant-based, as do farmers, need to make the switch. The campaigning group Viva! has several resources to help farmers make this switch themselves. Already plant-based businesses should carry on promoting their products in the global food market. Plant-based businesses must continue to grow and flood the market with their products. Only through this market’s continued growth can a growing population be sustained.