Key Terms

Alternative protein market

Animal protein producers face a range of sustainability risks. By diversifying into sustainable proteins, these businesses can hedge these risks and enter a fast-growing market.

At the same time, innovation in food technology is accelerating and is creating protein production opportunities with the potential to disrupt the incumbent industry. For intensive animal protein producers, a failure to engage with this innovation is a risk. Diversification into producing alternative (i.e. non-animal) proteins is therefore key for both managing the risks of resource-constrained supply chains and for seizing opportunities for market growth.

Meat alternatives and broader protein alternatives that can act as substitutes for traditional animal‑based food are attracting considerable financial investment.

Here we explain what alternative protein is, and why investors are engaging in this new market.

What is alternative protein?

‘Alternative proteins’ is a general term that covers plant-based and food-technology alternatives to animal protein.

Plants

Consuming more whole plants and crop extracts (such as grains, legumes, nuts, pulses and seeds).

Algae

Producing and harvesting protein biomass from macro and micro-algae.

Insects

Introducing insect protein (such as crickets) into the westernised diet.

Fermented proteins

Creating animal proteins such as casein and whey. This is done through a brewing process whereby yeast organisms are programmed to produce the proteins in a more efficient way than from animal sources

Cultured or ‘clean’ meat

Growing meat products from cells sourced from animal muscle and tissue in a laboratory, without raising and processing animals

Our definition of sustainable protein

We define sustainable proteins as protein-rich food sources that are:

  • consistent with nutritional requirements
  • produced to high environmental and ethical standards
  • diversified in their sourcing.

The most sustainable form of proteins do not involve large-scale livestock or fish production, primarily because of the difficulties of producing animal protein sources that are carbon-neutral, high-welfare, environmentally responsible and efficient.

How will alternative protein change the face of the farming industry?

Alternative proteins have the potential to structurally shift the intensive livestock industry, as the sector may see itself expand from a ‘meat’ industry to a broader ‘protein’ industry. These products can be used to produce protein-rich foods without animals, for a fraction of the cost and with significantly reduced external impacts. Bypassing the inherent inefficiencies of livestock production, such as plant-to-animal feed conversion, means innovation in this space could fundamentally disrupt the market.