Alternative proteins

Alternative proteins receive more attention. Meaning: proteins not from animal origin. Like vegetal products, and fermentation and artificial meat and fish. Much progress is being made.

mock meat
Assorted vegetarian mock meat (Hong Kong). Photo Mk2010, Wikimedia Commons

Major growth

On change.inc, Hannah van der Korput recounts that in 2023, companies producing alternative proteins raised as much as € 852 million from investors. Companies put hundreds of new products on the market. Factories of cultured meat aren’t mere phantasy – they are coming. Says Good Food Institute in its State of the Industry Reports on 2023.

Nowadays, alternative proteins are being produced in major quantities. We can produce quite different food products from vegetal resources, like (mock) salmon, eggs and steak. Major food chains also market an increasing amount of alternative proteins now. One of the most ambitious projects, says Hannah van der Korput, is SunOpta in the US. It is in the course of constructing a major factory of vegetal milk and cream. And in the Netherlands, Ojah, a producer of meat alternatives, expands a lot.

Against animal suffering

But right now, much attention is being given to improvement of the taste. One of the companies in this business is The Protein Brewery in Breda, The Netherlands. CEO Wim de Laat is a fermentation technologist and entrepreneur. He develops and trades vegetal proteins made from fermentation. Their resource consists of sugars, from side streams of carbohydrate rich crops like sugar beet, sugar cane, cassava, potatoes and maize, which they process into proteins.

vegan dish
Vegan Meat Pie with soy protein, mushrooms, peas and vegan gravy. Photo Pengo, Wikimedia Commons

One of the major benefits of such alternative proteins is that they allow us to prevent much animal suffering. De Laat: ‘cows being separated immediately from their calves, pigs fed much for being slaughtered quickly, and little roosters being ground while still alive… It is degrading. We need a better alternative, for a degrading practice doesn’t stop unless there is an alternative.’

But for now, the alternative product, alternative proteins from fermentation of vegetal resources, has only been allowed in Singapore and USA. Even though customers stand waiting for it in the queue, so to speak. To convince possible retailers is a bit more difficult. Authorities are the most difficult to persuade, says De Laat, for instance where subsidies or permits are concerned. ‘That’s frustrating, for I am firmly convinced of us having a solution for a big problem. This is the future.’

Research

In the meantime, research is moving at a high speed. Companies and research institutes research improvement of taste, texture and nutritional value of vegetal alternatives. It’s results tend to be favourable. For instance, Beyond Meat calculated that its Beyond Burger compared very well to a beef burger: it emitted 90% less greenhouse gases, it used 97% less water and land, and required 37% less non-renewable energy.

Artificial meat is on the rise. Worldwide, 174 companies are in this business. Companies like Mosa Meat in Maastricht and CellX in Shanghai. They research not just taste and texture, but above all price reductions. Maybe scale increase could be of help here; maybe we should rather have in mind hybrid products, partly from artificial meat, partly from vegetal ingredients.

Fermentation

Fermentation is the more general name for this technology. This will produce other products as well, like yoghurt and cheese on the basis of moulds. Change.inc reports that the Dutch company Revyve developed a process to produce high-value ingredients from brewer’s yeast, the side product of beer production. These ingredients can be mixed with food like artificial meat, pasta, bakery products, sauces and snacks. Fermentation companies collected € 483,3 in 2013, says Change.inc. Risen much in the past three years. Europe grows fastest.

Interesting? Then also read:
Efficient protein production and utilization
The protein challenge
Cold recovery of potato proteins, a wonderful innovation

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