Alternative protein: commonly referred to as alt protein, alternative protein is any type of foods or ingredients that has protein derived from non-animal sources such as fungi, plants, yeasts, or bacteria.
In 2021, many milestones were reached in the alternative protein space. Several companies made the TIME’s Best 100 Inventions of 2021 list, new state-of-the-art facilities were constructed, and unique alternative meat analogs were unveiled. Animal-free milk was trialed at Starbucks, the first cultivated seafood tasting room was opened, and mycelium bacon was one of the tastiest vegan products on the market.
Now that we are over a month into 2022, we want to know, What’s next for the alt protein space? Here are our predictions:
Cultivated meat and seafood in America
It seems that it is only a matter of time before we begin to see cultivated meat and seafood being served in restaurants and sold in grocery stores. Earlier this year, the USDA and FDA opened a window for receiving comments on the labeling of cultivated meat in the United States. After receiving about 1,700 comments from individuals, companies, and NGOs, the window was closed in early December. In the U.S., companies like UPSIDE and WildType have made commitments that depend on the regulatory approval of cultivated meat and seafood in this country. UPSIDE unveiled its brand new 53,000 square foot production facility, and Wildtype signed a distribution agreement with a restaurant operator and sushi bar. This collection of promising news hints that consuming cultivated meat in America is right around the corner.
Precision fermentation dairy
The GFI predicted that fermentation would take center stage in 2021, and it certainly did, especially in the alternative dairy space. There was an explosion of new precision fermentation companies that launched in the past year, and a generous amount of funding flowed into this category. A few companies in this space that we have covered on The Spoon include Change Foods, Formo, Perfect Day (and its brand, The Urgent Company), Imagindairy, Real Deal Milk. Perfect Day is one of the few that has released products onto the market this year, but 2022 should see more of an influx of precision fermentation products.
Consumer transparency and “cleaner” ingredients
According to recent surveys, consumers want to know what is going in their faux meat products, and how these products are made. Most people don’t exactly know what ingredients like methylcellulose are, and if there are health concerns they should be aware of. The lack of transparency may be one reason why plant-based meat sales may have slumped in the Fall of 2021. Transparency will also be crucial for convincing consumers to try cultivated meat products in the near future.
Lupine beans and mycelium, plant-based 2.0
Soy, pea, and wheat protein are some of the most common ingredients used in the plant-based space for high-protein meat analogs. The plant-based space in entering what is being called “Plant-Based 2.0”, or the next iteration of these products. This space has become saturated with meat analogs made from the previously listed ingredients; how many more pea protein burgers or soy chicken strips do we want to see on grocery store shelves? We should start seeing a new wave of plant-based products using ingredients like synthetic fats, mycelium, mushrooms, upcycled produce/grains, and lupin beans in 2022.
Governments across the world will continue to get involved in the alt. protein space
Animal agriculture can be extremely inefficient for feeding a continuously growing global population, and alternative protein poses a viable solution to this issue. With food security threatened by climate change and massive population growth, governments around the world are looking into the potential that alternative protein offers for feeding the masses. In 2021, we saw several government entities get involved in either supporting research or providing funding for the alternative protein space, including the European Union, the U.S., and Spain. Food insecurity and the increasing demand for protein are not going away anytime soon, and governments will certainly continue to invest in this space next year.