Sustainable Proteins

A better way to feed the world

Defining Sustainable Proteins

Sustainable proteins exerts less damage on the environment, decelerates climate change and provides enough sustenance to feed growing populations.

‘Sustainable Proteins’ refers to the production of new sources of protein. This may be cell-based foods or protein-rich plants, as well as mycelium, algae and microbes. New approaches towards conventional meat and dairy farming also provide significant opportunities to reduce our environmental impact. There’s huge potential for innovation in this space. This is why our second Impact Platform will focus on sustainable proteins.

Why do we need Sustainable Proteins?

Protein is one of the building blocks of life – essential to a balanced diet and necessary for growth and the repair of damaged tissues.

Demand for protein is on the rise as the world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (1). 1 billion people around the world already do not consume enough protein (2) and our food system today accounts for 30% of global GHG emissions (3). Without innovation, it will be impossible to provide enough protein to meet demand while meeting the targets set out by the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Plate of food with a burger and fries

Summarizing the challenges of protein production, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development writes:

“Societies urgently need to “bend the curve” on proteins. According to the 2019 IPCC Special Report, to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C, emissions need to halve by 2030. Representing 14.5% of GHG emissions (and up to 30% in 2050 under business-as-usual scenarios), the animal protein production sector must act even faster than others.” (4)


What do we mean by sustainable proteins?

Plant-based protein crops like soy, pea and other legumes – and plant-based protein alternatives and supplements made from these ingredients – are already widely available. But they alone may not solve the protein problem – not least because of their own issues linked to deforestation. Protein derived from algae, and the fermentation of microbes are also rapidly-growing fields. Then there is the cultivation of cell-based meat and dairy protein, with the latter nutritionally identical to their conventional cousins yet far less resource-heavy to produce.

Of course, sustainable proteins don’t have to mean meat-free. Some companies are developing feed supplements that can reduce cattle’s methane emissions. Others are looking to insects or regenerative agriculture as promising alternatives to reduce the environmental impact of traditional meat production.

What are the key challenges?

Consumer reliance on traditional sources of meat protein is entrenched and attitudes will take time to shift. Some types of traditional meat can be difficult to recreate – but companies are making great leaps in modulating taste, texture and mouthfeel. Some plant proteins also lack the complete set of amino acids, while others cannot yet compete with meat and dairy on price. Regulatory approval surrounding labeling also remains a potential stumbling block. Relying on the market or lone policy interventions is unlikely to prove successful. That’s why collaboration between private and public sectors is vital to provide alternative, sustainable proteins to as many people as quickly as possible.

The opportunity

We live in a time in which self-optimization is common practice in most developed countries. From measuring the steps we take throughout the day, to counting calories, to tracking how well we sleep – monitoring our daily activities has become the norm for many, enabled through smart devices and wearables.

One can even go a step further and make use of the services provided by a few startups and companies that go beyond the mentioned, and analyze a person’s blood or stool to give individual nutritional advice.

The market for sustainable proteins is experiencing enormous growth. Data released by the Good Food Institute reveals sustainable protein companies in Europe alone received funding worth more than €2.2 billion ($2.5 billion) in 2021 (5)

The Swiss Protein Association, established by Bell Food Group, Kündig Group, Migros Industrie, and Planted Foods and the Cultured Food Innovation Hub, founded by Givaudan, Bühler and Migros are just two examples of how the Swiss ecosystem is coming together to drive forward innovation in this space. Switzerland is extremely well-placed to make a global contribution in the alternative protein field.

The Swiss ecosystem actors

ADM is committed to providing a clean label to customers through traceability practices

Simplicity, responsibility, and reliability are the core values that guide its actions. For the Swiss retailer, this means not only offering high-quality products at consistently low prices but also ensuring sustainable, environmentally friendly, and animal-friendly production.

“Good for you and our planet” – This idea is central to us at Alver. We want to appeal to people from young to old who are also committed to responsible consumption.

Amazentis is a dynamic and growing commercial stage company delivering innovative advanced nutrition to consumers.

Aquantis develops new measuring solutions using laser and milli/microwave technologies. This technology allows us to measure the conditions on the outside and inside of solid and liquid products.

Bühler is developing smart solutions to revolutionize milling.

BusinessIn initiates synergies and creates impact on sustainability of SMEs and startups in the agrifood ecosystem by connecting them to other innovation actors such as research entities during events set up in collaboration with public and private actors.

Cluster Food & Nutrition
The Cluster Food & Nutrition is an association active in the agri-food industry since 2015.

Cultivated Biosciences
We are developing a fat ingredient from oleaginous yeast, which offers the creaminess needed for plant-based dairy and this ingredient has a clean label and sustainable production process.

DSM-Firmenich is using Path2Farm™ – a proprietary digital traceability application – to provide customers with sourcing information from farm to final product.

EHL Group
The EHL Group is the global benchmark in education, innovation and consulting for the hospitality and service sector.

ETH Zürich
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) is a public research university characterised by its curiosity-driven approach to science, excellence in research, innovative teaching, strong partnerships and entrepreneurial spirit, which all contribute to its vision of paving the way in a complex world.

Fabas is developing a novel plant-based ingredient to produce the NextGen of plant-based food.

FOOD2050 measures and monitors the environmental impact of each stakeholder group within the food world and helps them to improve their environmental footprint with clear actions enabling all participants within the value chain to make a change, bite by bite.

Where Food & FoodTech professionals come to get the inside scoop on industry news and meet partners, friends, mentors, investors – and everything in between.

Founder Institute
The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, their structured accelerator programs have helped over 6,000 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75 billion in funding.

Givaudans Sourcing4Good program is driving transparency across supply chains.

HES-SO Valais-Wallis, School of Engineering
The school of engineering is a dynamic and innovative team of 220 collaborators. We train 450 students in Bachelor and Master degree programmes in 4 areas : Life Sciences, Systems Engineering, Energy and Environment, Computer Science. Our 3 Ra&D Institutes work closely with the industry and academia generating a turnover of 18 Mio CHF.

Hoorah Sàrl
Oba! is a plant-based company helping everyone reduce their dairy consumptions with a delicious alternative.

House of Lab Science
We empower science-preneurs to focus on validating game-changing ideas, business growth and maximising capital efficiency.

Innopearl develops a unique marketplace to activate start-up – corporation partnerships. We make the partnering process radically easier, quicker, and smarter for founders and corporate leaders.

Kickstart is one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate ecosystem innovation platforms that run a scale-up program for later-stage startups with a goal to accelerate deep tech innovation.

KONOÏ is a family business whose mission is to promote nutrition and well-being through hemp. We offer a new generation of products and services combining pleasures, benefits, and sustainability.

Lowimpact Food SA
Sustainable protein production through insect farming, using an innovative circular agriculture system that upcycles food production byproducts and redirects them back into the food production system.

Luya is a flavor-loaded plant-based alternative to meat that doesn’t try to be meat. We rescue organic okara – a by-product of tofu and soy milk production of which more than 14 million tonnes go to waste globally every year – and turn it into ready-to-cook slices, chunks and patties.

Maison Amarella SA
MAISON AMARELLA is a Swiss company specialised in producing high-end artisanal macarons. The heart of our philosophy is based on the quality of Swiss ingredients and a profound respect for nature.

Since 2016, MassChallenge Switzerland has been a leader in helping startups grow their businesses by accelerating 610 startups across the world in multiple industries. They have raised more than $985M in funding.

Mirai Foods
Our vision is to become a household brand for cultivated meat, thereby accelerating the transition to a global food system that is environmentally, ethically and economically sustainable.

NeoCarbons™ provides industrial solutions for the effective remediation of effluent CO2 and/or for the economic production of high-value added chemicals via the generation of micro-algae biomass.

Innovation is Nestlé’s hallmark. We’re committed to developing innovative products and services that provide nutrition and health for people and pets everywhere, across all their life stages, in a way that’s good for our planet.

New Roots
Swiss producer of 100% plant-based cheese, and other dairy alternatives, following traditional cheese-making techniques.

Office for Economic Affairs and Innovation / State of Vaud
The Office for Economic Affairs and Innovation (SPEI) supports companies that are located in the State of Vaud, especially those involved in the sectors of advanced technology and industry. SPEI advises entrepreneurs and puts them in contact with organizations that are appropriate to their specific needs. SPEI can also provide direct financial support.

planetary is an infrastructure platform designing, building and operating upstream, downstream and formulations capacity and related IP for biomass and precision fermentation players globally.

Planted produces delicious meat from alternative proteins, focusing on the perfect bite. Inspired by nature, the company pioneers a novel biostructuring approach that combines protein structuring and biotechnology.

ProSeed provides upcycled food raw materials to the professional ingredients market. By combining technological know-how and a circular approach, ProSeed upcycles by-products from the food industry, such as brewers’ spent grains and fruit pomace, into quality raw materials.

QualityChain helps Italian agribusiness SMEs transform their products from simple exhibits to true digital experiences capable of enhancing their uniqueness.

Raps Schweiz
Raps Schweiz is a specialist in the development of individual products and applications for the food industry.

We create protein-based ingredients from upcycled single cells, through a process that unlocks unique functionalities, like heat-set gelling, emulsification, and more. All while keeping the label completely clean. Our ingredients help us extend our stay on this beautiful planet, with fairness and integrity, one bite at a time!

Sight and Life
Sight and Life is a Swiss-based foundation and humanitarian nutrition think tank working to innovate in nutrition towards eradicating all forms of malnutrition in children and women of childbearing age and so improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Spiruline SwissMade
Spiruline SwissMade is the first dedicated spirulina farm in Switzerland

Swiss Food Group
Swiss Food Group is an independent group investing in aspirational brands and specific know-how in the Food & Beverage industry in Switzerland.

The Cultured Hub AG
Our purpose is to accelerate our journey to cultured food. We do this through Scale Up as a Service facilities for startups, bridging the gap from small lab environment to industrial manufacturing.

The Fribourg Development Agency – State of Fribourg
Since 1971, the Fribourg Development Agency (FDA) has been helping local businesses to get off the ground, outside companies to relocate to the region, and established companies to expand their operations.

Thought For Food
Thought For Food is the world’s next gen innovation engine for food and agriculture. We create, empower and support a new generation of leaders to solve our planet’s most pressing challenge: How to sustainably feed 10 billion people?

Weekly Food Sàrl
Weekly Food – Fresh box of meals prepared in Switzerland and ready to eat since 2021.

Sustainable proteins & the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring peace and prosperity for all. Find out how sustainable proteins can contribute to to the delivery of these goals below.

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Adequate and sustainable food production, including protein sources, is necessary to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

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Consuming a varied and balanced diet, including plant-based proteins, can help to promote good health and prevent diseases.

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Plant-based proteins, such as beans and legumes, generally have a lower environmental impact compared to animal-based proteins. Promoting sustainable protein sources can contribute to responsible consumption and production patterns.

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The production of animal-based proteins can contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, which are a major contributor to climate change. Substituting plant-based proteins for some animal-based proteins can help to reduce these emissions.

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Overfishing and the destruction of marine ecosystems can be driven, in part, by the demand for animal-based proteins. Promoting plant-based proteins can help to reduce this demand and protect marine environments.

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