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Sustainable Foods Summit Part 1: The Rise of Meat Alternatives

I recently attended the Sustainable Foods Summit in Amsterdam, an inspirational and enlightening two-day conference organised by Ecovia Intelligence. This conference looks at sustainability from many different angles including developments in the food industry, innovation in ingredients, marketing best practice and the packaging challenge.

Our Head of Strategy, Ed Silk, had been asked to present on day two in the Green Marketing session, so I went along to support him as well as taking the opportunity to get up to speed about current sustainability issues.

Opening the conference, Ecovia founder, Amarjit Sahota gave an overview of the key topics that would be covered, presenting this quote that perfectly summarises the sustainability challenge ahead of us.

Sustainable Foods Summit Ban Ki Moon

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food scarcity and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”

Ban Ki-Moon (ex-Secretary General of the UN 2007-2016)

Over the two days, I had my eyes opened to the key issues and I was inspired to see what some companies are already doing to make a change.

With so much covered, it would be hard to put this all into one blog, so I’ve taken the key themes, which I will cover individually in a series of blogs over the coming weeks. For the first theme, I delve into the sustainability issues surrounding the meat industry and look at what alternatives there are.

 

Theme 1: The rise of meat alternatives

We heard from a range of companies all citing that we need to diversify global food production to meet future needs. It’s no surprise that current levels of intensive farming are not sustainable; neither is the level of meat consumption globally.

With the population predicted to increase by 9.7bn by 2050 and food demand set to grow 70% by 2050, it’s time to look at sustainable plant-based alternatives to meet future demand.

According to Verena Wiederkehr from Proveg International, the market for plant-based food is booming. Plant-based meat alternatives are growing at a rate of 8.29% and sales are predicted to reach $5.2 billion by 2020. Global sales of plant-based dairy produce have more than doubled between 2009 and 2015. And the global plant-based egg market is set to reach $1.1 billion by 2022. (Sources: Bloomberg Intelligence 2017, Euromonitor, Research and Market 2017, MarketsandMarkets.)

The drivers for this increase cover everything from health concerns, to animal welfare as well as the environmental impact of meat farming globally.

Sustainable Foods Summit key global drivers for plant based food

(Image source: Proveg International)

Alarmingly, 15% of global carbon emissions come from farming livestock and 35% of all global grains are used to feed farm livestock. No wonder alternative proteins and flexitarian diets were named the key food trends in 2017 and 2018 by numerous industry commentators including Forbes, Mintel and Innova Market Insights.

With such a rising demand in meat alternatives, it’s not surprising that companies are keen to innovate. Alpro has launched a curd cheese alternative called Go On and you can even get a mozzarella alternative called Cashewella.

Sustainable Foods Summit 2018 - Alpro Go OnSustainable Foods Summit 2018 - Cashewella

Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA is looking at more responsible and sustainable food solutions for the food service arm of their business.

With a turnover of £2bn and 660 million shoppers served in their restaurants each year, IKEA runs a big global food system. According to Jacqueline Macalister, Health and Sustainability Manager at IKEA Food Services, “Food is at the heart of everyday life. Food is the solution, rather than the problem.”

Sustainable Foods Summit IKEA we are what we eat

As well as a focus on better animal welfare and reducing food waste, this corporate giant is looking to create the fast food of the future. Two of their innovations include a Dogless Hot Dog– plant based hot dog created using spirulina and vegetables, and a Crispy Bug Ball– made of mealworms, carrots, parsnips and beetroot.

Sustainable Foods Summit 2018 : IKEA Crispy Bug Ball

A company which is taking meat alternatives to another level is SuperMeat, an Israeli biotech and food-tech startup. This forward-thinking company is growing the meat of the future, recreated from animal cells.

Current meat alternatives are limited to either plant-based options or insects. SuperMeat Founder, Shir Friedman, spotted an opportunity to create a ‘clean meat’.

SuperMeat is produced by recreating the cell of a chicken (which Shir assured us wasn’t harmed in the process). The recreated cells are then ‘grown in conditions that allow them to thrive’, forming high quality chicken cuts. The science behind this is obviously top secret but it’s an interesting development in meat-free. Could this be the future of meat?

Sustainable Foods Summit 2018: SuperMeat process

Stay tuned for part two of my Sustainable Foods Summit blog, where I’ll be covering another hot topic – the plastics revolution.

Blog written by Debbie.