March 2024

Impact Digests | Sustainable Protein: driving impact at scale

Image of the Yumane team
On 4 March, we held our first Impact Forum event, bringing together 4 experts to explore how we drive impact at scale in sustainable proteins in just 60 minutes. Topics spanned from technical innovations to the critical role of adapting interventions to diverse cultural and economic contexts. Read on to explore some of the event’s key insights.
Key Takeaways
  • Rather than urging consumers to reduce meat consumption, we should be advocating for a shift to alternative protein sources that are environmentally sustainable and pose no public health risks.
  • A shift to more plant-based diets can help to address both environmental and health challenges. But diverse formats of alternative proteins are needed to cater to varied consumer preferences and cultural context.
  • When it comes to low and middle-income countries (LMICs), we should focus on diversifying protein sources, with a focus on minimally processed proteins, and context-specific and culturally resonant products.
David Hunt, Good Food Institute Europe

With a focus on the imperative need for innovation to respond to the growing global demand for meat, Hunt delved into three key pillars of alternative proteins: plant-based, fermentation-made, and cultivated meat and fish.

Diverse plant-derived proteins emerge as a promising solution with advancements in raw materials, fractionation techniques, and inventive methods for texture emulation, including the upcycling of food industry byproducts. Fermentation technology plays a key role in standalone protein creation and functional ingredient development — with microorganisms like fungi and bacteria aiding in bioprocessing.

Research priorities in cultivated meat and fish were also discussed, including cell line development, cost reduction in cell culture mediums, and enhanced bioprocess efficiency. 2023 marked significant milestones in each of these categories, but the discussion wrapped up with a call to action for continued research and collaboration in the pursuit of sustainable and innovative solutions.

Kesso Gabrielle van Zutphen-Küffer, Sight and Life 

Low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and high-income countries have two opposing protein transitions — which means there’s a need for nuanced solutions. Not only are LMICs experiencing major nutritional gaps, but a nutritious and planetary diet is not affordable for many of the world’s poorest populations. Against this backdrop, there is no better opportunity than now, to leverage underexploited crops, create new jobs that empower smallholder farmers, and close the nutrition and affordability gap. However, protein quality must be safeguarded at all costs. 

Kesso proposed a narrative shift from replacing protein with alternative proteins to diversifying protein sources, with a focus on minimally processed proteins. It’ll take a multi-phased approach to scale this shift, and it will encompass the entire value chain. Collaboration, culturally resonant products, and substantial investments are a must. And as Kesso emphasised, “context is everything”.

Petra Klassen Wigger, Nestlé Research & Development

Petra Klassen Wigger emphasised a holistic approach to creating products that are beneficial for both consumers and the planet. Convincing consumers to adopt alternative proteins is not always an easy sell, and as such, companies must adopt a holistic value proposition. Alternative proteins have to meet a range of attributes  such as food safety, taste, nutrition, affordability, and sustainability.

Petra’s presentation stressed the importance of delivering alternative proteins in diverse and innovative formats not limited to replacing meat, dairy  or fish with plant based alternatives. New formats such as hybrid foods based on plant and animal sourced proteins allow  to address accessibility and sustainability, or vegetable based dishes to diversify diets. The company is also exploring emerging technologies like precision fermentation and cultured meat. For Nestlé, a commitment to range diversity is a key strategy — it allows the company to cater to varied consumer preferences and cultural contexts, ensuring the scalability of sustainable protein solutions.

Eliana Zamprogna, Yumame Foods 

With over one billion people affected by obesity and increasing malnutrition cases, there’s a pressing need for a shift to a more plant-based diet. Eliana Zamprogna discussed Yumame Foods’ comprehensive approach to food product ingredients; its aim is to create products that not only fulfil protein requirements but also utilise components in a wholesome manner. The company uses the fermentation process in an innovative way to combine cereals and legumes to produce authentic, minimally processed, and environmentally sustainable products that have a comprehensive nutrient profile, low fats and sodium, and locally sourced ingredients.

The key takeaway from this presentation, though, is that Yumame’s model has the potential to be replicated globally, which could significantly contribute to the paradigm shift towards sustainable and nutritious food options.

Driving impact at scale

The expert presentations were followed up by a lively Q&A session with the audience. Topics touched on included the role of upcycling for future food security, ongoing trends for meat replicas, and barriers hindering mass consumer adoption. There were also discussions around strengthening local protein source value chains in developing countries and the need for an agile approach to accommodate evolving consumer drivers. 

The collective questions and insights showcased a comprehensive engagement with diverse facets of the alternative protein landscape, reflecting the audience’s curiosity about regulatory, consumer-centric, and strategic considerations.

We’re already looking forward to our next Impact Forum event on regenerative agriculture pathways on 21 June. More information coming soon! 

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