What you should already know about alternative protein in 2023
Alternative protein production is climbing up the pole of relevance in the food industry - as the need for long-term sustainable meat production is translating into real consumer demand. It's why there's more talk about plant-based and cultivated meat than ever before.
Experts are already saying that traditional practices can't be sustained while being eco-conscious simultaneously. Of course, from an investment perspective, these markets still have a long way to go - despite the influx of successful startups in this space.
But when discussing the future of food tech, they can certainly no longer be ignored.
Leading market studies report that the worldwide plant-based protein market size alone was estimated at USD 12.2 billion in 2022. It is expected to exceed USD 17 billion by 2027.
Types of alternative protein
Let's look at three of the most popular types of alternative protein:
- Plant-based protein: Chickpeas, soybeans, nuts, quinoa, etc.
- Insect protein: Crickets, termites, grasshoppers, etc.
- Lab-grown protein(cultured meat)
There are also other types, such as fungi-based proteins and algae-based proteins. In the future, backed by R&D, it is inevitable that more alternative sources will be unearthed.
The tech behind alternative protein
So, what makes alternative protein supply a sustainable means to endless food? It's the tech, of course. For instance, plant-based protein is driven by microbial fermentation, whereas lab-grown meat is powered by cellular technologies. Let's not forget 3D technology, as well! While 3D printing technology became popular thanks to plastic products, its foray into the food industry has taken major leaps in recent times. As you may know, 3D printers don't actually cook the food - but rather help produce and manipulate the dish.
Unlike the lab-based tech that powers alternative protein products - 3D printing has a wider impact as it allows a granular level of customization in the cooking and plating process. In addition, it gives ample scope for fine-tuning combinations of shapes and sizes.
So, is alternative protein good for you?
Firstly, let's tackle the all-encompassing question of whether alternative proteins can actually compensate for traditional meat sources - providing similar (if not more) health benefits. While there are no easy answers, one way to understand is that alternative proteins like plant-based meat are proven to have a comparable amount of protein content - similar to meat products. In many cases, they are known to have a larger amount of fiber. But, on the flip side, they may contain more sodium in order to replicate the taste of chicken, fish, etc.
Now, it's also crucial to understand that traditional meat is a wonderful protein source - also providing enough vitamins and minerals. However, as several countries all over are struggling to achieve food sustainability, the availability of protein is becoming a matter of serious concern.
Wrapping things up
Some seem to think that there are several compromises on the long road to adoption that consumers must put up with that the only good enough reason for alternative protein sources is eco-consciousness (including anti-animal cruelty measures). But the facts are facts, and it's that more consumers will start gravitating towards using them as these new-age proteins seem to check all their boxes for taste, quality, and sustainability.
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