Australia’s alternative protein market is set to explode with a new wave of Australian alternative protein pioneers stepping up to navigate a future not dominated by conventional animal sources.
The global market for traditional meat is amidst one of the greatest disruptions of our time. According to think tank Food Frontier plant-based meat is an emerging sector in Australia on the cusp of major expansion. Genuine plant-based alternatives that look, smell, taste and feel like meat are now readily available in Australia, the edible insect market is growing, and affordable cell-based meat is only a few years away. And investors are paying attention.
Baby-boomers are leading the meat-reduction trend in Australia whereas, whereas vegetarians and vegans are most likely to be millennials, according to a recent report for Frontier Foods by Colmar Brunton, Hungry for Plant-Based. Consistently all generations nominate health, the environment and animal welfare as the most important reasons to reduce meat consumption.
Australians currently spend $150 million a year on plant-based products but could spend as much as $4.6 billion by the end of the next decade if growth accelerates, according to a first of its kind report produced by Frontier Foods with Deloitte Access Economics. The report, Meat the Alternative, indicates if the current moderate growth trajectory continues, the sector will generate almost $3 billion in retail sales, over $1 billion in manufacturing, and employ over 6,000 Australians by 2030.
In 2018-2019, Australian consumers spent an estimated $150 million on plant-based meat products, across retail ($115 million) and foodservice ($35 million) channels.
In 2019 Food Frontier noted (in Meat the Alternative) there were more than 100 plant-based meat products – both traditional style and new generation – produced by 21 brands, on the shelves of Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets. Expect more brands and more variety – pork, chicken, fish, and faux eggs – to hit supermarket shelves and fridges during the coming year and beyond.
According to the CSIRO, the domestic and export market for plant-based protein products could be worth A$6.6 billion by 2030. Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said Australian consumption of alternative proteins could be worth $4.1 billion by 2030, with another $2.5 billion in export opportunity by 2030.
The CSIRO launched v2food in late 2019. Now available in Hungry Jacks, v2food is a sustainable, plant-based alternative to meat that looks like meat, cooks like meat and tastes like meat. v2food was formed by CSIRO’s Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures, a part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), in 2018. Competitive Foods Australia, the company behind Hungry Jack’s, contributed seed funding to help launch the start up. During 2020 it plans to develop a range of wholly Australian meat alternatives to be sold in supermarkets and restaurants including protein from legumes, fibre from plants, and oils from sunflower and coconut, with Hungry Jacks the first major fast food chain to use the products.
Launched late in 2019 on the menu of Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in Melbourne after completing the Mars Accelerator, Fable is a plant-based protein made from shiitake mushrooms, coconut oil and sugar. With $1.5 million in funds from Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes personal investment fund Grok Ventures, Blackbird Ventures and angel investors, the start-up is rolling out in foodservice across the country before launching into retail later this year.
Expect to see more protein from pulses throughout with production at Australia’s first major commercial plant protein extraction facility due to start early this year. Australian Plant Proteins (APP) announced construction of the plant last year with investment from Melbourne based Scalzo Foods.
APP developed a proprietary extraction process for pulses to create high-protein powders containing more than 85 per cent protein, which is far higher than many other alternative protein sources. There’s already significant local and international demand for the product as a key ingredient for a range of foods and beverages including meat alternatives, protein bars and shakes, snack foods and non-dairy beverages. APP’s initial focus for commercial manufacturing will be on faba beans, which are commonly used by grain growers as rotational crops to replenish nitrogen in soil.
And it’s not just plant protein set to grow. The curve is finally starting to catch up with the possibilities of protein from crickets. Australian pioneer Skye Blackburn has farmed insects for over 12 and last year secured investment from the Mars Accelerator. Protein from her crickets is now widely available via Woolworths under the Macro brand and sold under her VitaBug brand.
It’s estimated 2 billion people eat insects daily, and they’re a food staple in parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The global industry for edible insects, sold whole or in a smoothie-ready powder, is expected to grow from sales of $1 billion to $8 billion by 2030, according to a report from Barclays and Meticulous Research.
Crickets are a nutrient dense food containing 69 per cent protein, all nine essential amino acids, Vitamin B12, essential omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, iron, potassium and calcium. There are also significant economic and environmental reasons to be eating insects. Crickets require less land, water, feed and energy than many other popular protein sources including beef, chicken or pork.
Two Australian companies are working to make cell-based meat commercially viable – Heuros in Brisbane recently attracted investment from Blackbird Ventures, and VOW in Sydney. Cellular agriculture is an emerging field that produces cell-based meat is grown directly from animal stem cells. Cell-based or lab-grown meat has essentially the same clearly profile as conventional meat and is an opportunity to provide a protein with identical amino acids levels and micronutrients as conventional meat. It’s also referred to as ‘clean meat’ due to its environmental and food safety benefits.
According to Whole Foods Market, ‘meat-plant blends’ are the future and ‘butchers and meat brands won’t be left out of the plant-based craze in 2020’. It says the new ‘blended burger’ is the latest trend where beef is mixed with plant protein such as that from peas or mushrooms.