The consumption of plant-based proteins is growing rapidly. Pioneers in the field explained to the 250 participants of the Foodvalley Summit Proteins of the Future, on 10 October in Ede, that their growth is accelerating, and demands exceed production capacity. But there are still challenges to overcome.

Growing demand
Frank Giezen, CEO of Ojah, was one of the pioneers of green proteins. He started the company 10 years ago with 3 people. Now there are 45. Ojah develops and produces meat alternatives with long fibres, also called third generation meat alternatives. Giezen emphasizes the importance of co-creation. “That means that you partner up with important customers and combine your research efforts. It provides you with a much more important and better strategic position.”

From 2011 onwards Ojah had an annual growth rate of 30 to 50%. “The growth of our production is only limited by the production capacity,” Giezen says. “The demand from the market is much higher than the capacity that we have at the moment.”

According to Jos Hugense, CEO of Meatless, the demand for vegetable proteins grew only slowly in the early days. In 2006 Meatless had a production capacity of 1.500 ton per year, ten years later it was extended to 5.000 tons per year. In this period there was an average annual growth of 20%.

Five Hurdles
Thijs Geijer, economist of ING Economics department, argued that further improvement of plant-based products is needed. He spoke of “five hurdles food companies need to overcome”. Taste and texture could be improved; products can be made healthier by using other processing techniques; availability of the products could be better; and consciousness needs to be increased. Besides there is the price issue.

Meat Replacers?
In last year’s Foodvalley Summit, much attention was payed to how meat replacers should be called. If you use this term people are inclined to compare the new developed product with meat, and they may conclude that ‘real meat’ tastes better. That is why speakers then pleaded for a new term which stresses that the products need to be seen as a category of its own. According to Jeroen Willemsen, in both 2017 and 2018 moderator of the event, nowadays the term ‘plant meat’ is used more widely, first by influencers and the sector itself. Willemsen says he hopes ‘plant meat’ will also be accepted by consumers. “There’s animal meat, plant meat and also clean meat”,  referring to cultured meat. Willemsen, among others, also use the term ‘meat successors’.

Willemsen argues that the protein transition is in its final stage, that of acceleration, of ‘plantification’. “You see that all those entrepreneurs are profiting from plant proteins. They are turning a serious business into serious business.”

Want to know more? Read the full article about the summit, including interviews with speakers, on foodvalleyupdate.com.