5 plant-based trends to have on your radar 2023

Several exciting plant-based trends emerged in 2022, from the rise of plant milk drinkers to the global expansion of meat-free fast food stores.

And the plant-based food industry is showing no signs of slowing down. So, what does the future hold in store for consumers and industry players in 2023?

Based on our work with key stakeholders and high-impact investors, we’ll be covering some of the top trends from each of the core technology segments that are currently dominating the animal product replacement (APR) food landscape, including plant-based, fermentation, and cultivation.

Although these trends can be differentiated by the technologies underpinning them, at their core, they are all considered part of the “plant-based” movement. Moreover, with the rise of hybrid products made using a combination of techniques, they all merit consideration.

Before zooming in on the specific trends, we’ll start with an overview of the APR market, including regional food market differences, our short and long-term predictions, and market growth projections.

What are APRs?

Animal product replacements (otherwise known as alternative proteins) are animal-free products that aim to replace their animal-derived counterparts, such as meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. They’re designed to emulate these in taste, texture, and culinary experience, as well as in price and availability.

APRs can include products made from legumes, nuts, fungi, algae, or even cultivated animal cells. What’s more, plant-based, cultivation, or fermentation production technologies further differentiate the end products.

Read our article on alternative proteins for a broader perspective.

Overview of the sectors

As demonstrated in the graph below, plant-based processed dairy, meat, and seafood products have already achieved commercialization, with several competitive products already on the market.

Cultivated products remain mostly in the research and development stage, while the majority of plant-based fresh meat and fish analogs and fermentation-based dairy and egg products are in the process of scaling up production. It is still early days for these segments and infrastructure is the key to testing, upscaling, and mass-producing them.

Nevertheless, this bottleneck presents numerous opportunities for first movers and, at Bright Green Partners, we are already supporting several companies to strategize and build robust supply chains.

As such, we predict that fresh meat and fish analogs and fermentation-based dairy and egg products will become the most commercially relevant categories in the next 5 years.

Regional differences for plant-based market trends

Currently, North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific (APAC) make up around 85% of the global US$ 25 billion APR food market.

Health appears to be the biggest motivator for consumers to buy plant-based in both North America and APAC, whereas sustainability and animal welfare join health as the main drivers in European countries.

Latin America and Middle East & Africa (MEA) experience much lower demand but the promise of novel self-sufficient and climate-resistant technologies, such as biomass fermentation, are driving growth in these areas.

Market growth projections

After the analysis of over 25 different market reports, we have a clear idea of the prevailing predictions. Results suggest that the global meat alternatives market could grow from US$ 5 billion in 2020 to a range of US$ 10.8 billion up to 252 billion by 2030.

While these numbers are based on the wider APR data, the plant-based sector is a major part of this category and so we can be optimistic about its growth. And, as previously mentioned, fermentation and cultivation technologies are increasingly playing a significant role.

On the other hand, since these projections vary considerably, it’s important that each company makes its own calculations rather than relying on a single or even a summary of multiple reports. If you’re ready to take this step, reach out to us at Bright Green Partners.

To continue growing at the rate necessary to feed the rapidly growing population, however, the APR industry must address some key challenges. To learn more, read our article on Alternative proteins: benefits, challenges, and opportunities.

Plant-based food trends to watch out for in 2023

Below are some of the top plant-based trends as we move into 2023, from the latest consumer expectations to the ingredient making headlines across the globe. As these movements lead to active investments, we can expect to see even further growth in these areas:

1. The next wave of hybrid products

The combination of ingredients and processes across the three production platforms (plant-based, cultivation, and fermentation) is fast becoming a key plant-based industry trend for 2023.

While hybrid products have been around for a while (e.g. Blue Ridge Bantam’s lab-grown meat and Impossible Food’s heme burger), the goal of creating animal product replacements with optimal sensory, nutritional, and functional attributes continues to drive companies to explore this approach further.

“Meatier” meat is an important plant-based meat trend for innovators to consider since it supports an easier transition to plant-based diets. What’s more, as the global range of products continues to expand and improve, consumers will come to expect more authenticity.

There are, of course, numerous challenges surrounding capacity and infrastructure but novel hybrid formulations show great promise at scale to lower production costs and improve the overall quality of the end products.

2. There’s so mush-room for more fungi opportunities

Fungi-derived protein (whether in whole mushroom form or as a product of fermentation) has come a long way since Quorn launched its first product in 1985. It’s an ingredient with huge potential so it comes as no surprise that, once Quorn’s patents on its mycoprotein production processes expired, fungi innovation advanced considerably.

Fungi have several advantages over plant-based proteins. For starters, they can be developed rapidly and in vast quantities using biomass fermentation, which requires a relatively small amount of land and resources.

Secondly, fungi produce naturally fibrous textures, which can be used to emulate various types and cuts of meat, without the requirement of additional processes such as high moisture extrusion. What’s more, some species can be grown to produce flavors akin to meat and seafood, such as chicken of the woods and lion’s mane, while other companies prefer to grow mycelium with a neutral flavor.

The nutritional profile of fungi is also desirable to food producers since they are rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Some of them are even classed as adaptogenic and are popular as an ingredient in a new generation of functional foods and beverages such as Fungtn’s alcohol-free beer.

Over the past couple of years, supermarket sales of fungi surged dramatically and a recent report predicts that the value of the global mushroom market will more than double by 2030.

And with natural environments still to explore and growing fungi databases ready to browse, there are endless opportunities to source fungi with your desired functional attributes. From MyForest Food’s hybrid myco-bacon to Fable’s hybrid BBQ ‘Beef’ Brisket, fungi is a plant-based food trend that does not appear to be slowing down.

3. A better plant-based spread from food service businesses

The news that Eleven Madison Park kept all three of its Michelin Stars despite transitioning to a fully plant-based menu made headlines last year. The International Director of Michelin Guides, Gwendal Poullennec, told the Financial Times that the ranking will "emphasize the importance of sustainability and inspire important changes within the culinary landscape."

And it’s not just fine dining restaurants following the plant-based food trend; numerous restaurants and catering/food service groups are set to transition away from animal proteins. For example, Compass Group, the British food service conglomerate, has promised a 40% switch from animal proteins by 2030 to align with their net-zero targets.

Even governments are pushing for change; Germany is embracing the plant-based trend as part of its 2023 National Nutrition Strategy, which aims to make healthy and sustainable eating more accessible via food services, with a particular focus on government-run facilities such as hospitals, care homes, and schools.

As such, exciting opportunities lie in the collaboration between plant-based food innovators and the food service industry. Companies may wish to explore the examples of Oatly and Redefine and consider a B2B go-to-market strategy.

4. A sea of plant-based seafood opportunities

According to GFI, the number of plant-based seafood products sold in retail in the United States increased by 25% in 2021 and total U.S. retail sales grew by 14% in the past year. The high prevalence of seafood allergies and the rising costs of seafood products are both contributing factors toward the growing plant-based consumer trend to buy alternative seafood products.

And with over 200 edible species of seafood waiting to be emulated, a sea of opportunities awaits food innovators.

5. Budget-friendly flexitarianism

In May 2021, Co-op UK became the first major retailer to reduce the price of its vegan range to match the price of its meat and dairy-based counterparts, sometimes cutting as much as 50% off the original price tags.

The price match was part of the retailer’s action plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 but it’s also been a huge hit with consumers.

Over 30% of European consumers already strive to eat a more plant-based diet, including the consumption of alternatives on a regular basis. Combined with the change in consumer buying habits due to the global cost of living crisis, initiatives like the Co-op’s are driving a budget-friendly flexitarianism plant-based protein trend.

Moving forwards

Animal product replacements continue to evolve and blaze new trails. Whether focusing on the plant-based sector or using a combination of technologies to create hybrid products, there are so many exciting plant-based trends on the horizon.

Industry players face some difficult choices. Knowing which trends to rely on will give you a major advantage compared to other entrants.

The increased inter-sectional cooperation and technological innovation are generating numerous opportunities and market projections. To succeed in the industry, players must develop a roadmap that explores all potential areas for opportunity exploration and collaboration.

For assistance evaluating the latest trends and projections, reach out to us at Bright Green Partners. We’ll help you determine objective numbers to support fact-based decision-making while promoting a greater understanding of the alternative proteins industry.

Interview with Bright Green Partners on cultivated meat infrastructure

Floor Buitellaar, Co-Founder of Bright Green Partners

We’re thrilled to have been featured in The Future of Protein Production’s latest post:
Bright Green Partners: “By 2035, we’ll have cracked the standardization of cultivated meat”.

The exclusive article discusses the complexities of the cultivated meat industry, highlighting the need for greater standardization. Our Co-Founders, Floor Buitelaar and Géza Molnár, were interviewed to gather key insights and to explain how we help players navigate infrastructure development.

Click here to read the full article on The Future of Protein Production

Biomass fermentation: the most flexible alt protein technology?

Out of all of the alternative protein technologies, biomass fermentation offers one of the best opportunities to produce protein at scale with little or no processing required to develop a finished product.

Organisms, feedstocks, production processes, and a number of other variables can be adapted to produce a diverse assortment of animal-free alternatives that differ according to function, as well as protein and nutrient content.

Needless to say, high variability presents many challenges when striving to create a distinctive product.

To help you maneuver the complexities, take a deep dive into biomass fermentation. By examining the key variables, we reveal the numerous opportunities it presents for the alternative protein industry and how to harness this exciting technology to your advantage.

Biomass fermentation variables

1. Microbes

Biomass fermentation wouldn’t be possible without microbes, such as bacteria, algae, and fungi. And it’s important that you choose your microbe wisely.

From well-established strains to novel extremophiles, companies can harness the biodiversity of microorganisms as a resource. Microbes can vary in their efficiency, yield, nutritional profile, and functional results. This also means that they will present unique production requirements.

Companies may wish to use a well-documented microbe (e.g. Fusarium venenatum, edible filamentous fungi used in Quorn products) since these tend to already hold GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status and have been used successfully in a number of food applications.

Yellowstone's extremophiles have been the subject of scientific research over recent years and have already yielded interesting strains for use in biomass fermentation

To find a new candidate strain that produces high-quality protein and/or metabolites of interest, companies can browse microbial libraries and databases. Alternatively, some may wish to explore natural areas in search of commercially-viable native organisms by employing a systematic approach known as bioprospecting.

2. Feedstocks

In the same way in which we can’t rely on just filamentous fungi to produce all plant-based meat products, we shouldn’t focus on glucose extracted from corn and wheat as the only feedstock in the biomass fermentation process.

The difficulty lies in finding source materials that don’t require complex treatment in order to be processed into efficient feedstocks. Nevertheless, as technology develops, it has the potential to become agnostic for a variety of carbon sources, such as lignin cellulosic glucose.

What’s more, progress has been made in synthetic biology, whereby microbes can be reprogrammed to feed on a wide variety of substrates. Headway has also been made to utilize side streams from several industries to create circular processes, such as apple pomace and potato wastewater.

Mycelia can be reprogrammed to feed on various by-products and waste streams from agriculture and forestry

3. Production methods

The biomass fermentation process will influence the properties of the final product. Three key approaches include solid-state fermentation (SSF), submerged fermentation (SmF), and liquid-air interface fermentation (LAIF). All three have advantages and disadvantages, influencing factors such as the microbes used, energy costs, yield, and scalability.

In SSF, microorganisms grow on a solid substrate in a temperature and air-controlled fermentation room. SmF involves microbial growth in a liquid cell culture medium, which requires the use of large fermenter tanks.

In the case of LAIF, trays are used to contain the liquid medium; fungi colonize the surface of the medium and then grow downwards as they eat their way toward the bottom. These trays can be set up in vertically stacked layers, much like vertical farming.

Growing microbes in liquid culture requires the use of fermentation tanks

Whether or not aerobic or anaerobic fermentation of biomass is employed depends on the type of microorganism. Again, there are pros and cons to both production methods. For example, anaerobic fermentation can be better economically since it does not require an oxygen supply but it can produce more toxic byproducts than aerobic fermentation, which often delivers higher yields.

4. Nutrition

Perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects from the consumer perspective is that the microbial biomass from the fermentation process is often healthier and more nutritious than its meat counterparts.

Biomass fermentation produces a whole food source that requires very little processing. Many products contain complete protein with an impressive amino acid profile, making them as good as, if not better than, animal (and many plant) sources of protein. By way of illustration, Meati has a PDCAAS score of 1 and a recent study revealed that Quorn is twice as good at building muscle than milk protein.

In addition to protein, microbial biomass often contains plenty of fiber, B vitamins (including B12), and minerals such as potassium, iron, copper, calcium, and zinc. If manufacturers wish to boost the nutrient profile even further, biomass fermentation allows for straightforward enrichment.

5. Flavor

Many manufacturers prefer strains that exhibit neutral flavor profiles, which can then be combined with additional ingredients to emulate the taste of meat or dairy.

There are also a number of fungal species known to taste similar to animal proteins, which could be utilized to create products such as chicken alternatives or plant-based seafood.

6. Textures and product applications

The appeal of biomass fermentation technology is that it can be applied to create a broad range of products, from minced meat to dairy and whole cuts of seafood. Some companies, such as Alver, are even harnessing this technology to create pasta, soups, and sauces.

Depending on the process used, microbial biomass requires minimal or zero processing to produce textures akin to the animal counterparts they aim to replace. No extrusion processes are required and proteins are not modified. Although the products of biomass fermentation can also be used to produce hybrid meat products or as a building block for 3D printed steak.

To use Quorn as an example of the natural texturization capabilities of fungi-based processes, Fusarium venenatum aligns itself into natural fibers. Hyphae (the branching filaments that make up the mycelium of a fungus) are then encouraged to bind together before the biomass undergoes a careful freezing process, whereby the ice crystals expand and create the structure. Small variations to this process can yield entirely distinct products.

Biomass fermentation key takeaways

All things considered, it is clear that biomass fermentation could completely transform the future of the global food system. Its versatility combined with the continuous development of microbial strains, feedstocks, production methods, and fermentation technology will significantly lower costs and lead to more sustainable, circular systems.

For these reasons and more, we expect to witness significant growth in this area over the next few years.

If you’d like to benefit from this progress and wish to learn more, reach out to us at Bright Green Partners. We will clear up any ambiguities regarding the biomass fermentation industry while helping you to design and develop your own value chain.

How to optimize your cell culture media for cultivated meat

Cell culture media is used to sustain cellular growth ex vivo. Without it, growing cells in an artificial environment would not be possible, which makes it arguably the most critical factor in cell cultivation.

Although its a mainstay in scientific research and industrial bioprocessing, significant opportunities remain to optimize its use for the alternative protein industry.

Developing industry-standard cell culture media will greatly support manufacturers to reduce costs, increase viable yields, and achieve price parity.

In this week’s article, we’ll discuss the fundamentals of cell culture media, an overview of prevalent ingredients and preparation types, and actionable steps on how to develop industry-standard optimized media that works well across several cell types and species.

The fundamentals of cell culture media

To optimize your media, it’s important to understand the basics, including its usage, the essential components, and the different preparation types.

What is cell culture media?

Cell culture media is the gel or liquid that supplies the necessary nutrients and environment (e.g. pH and osmolality) to support the growth and function of ex vivo cell cultures, including those used as biomass for 3D printed steak and other cultivated products.

Different cell types often require distinct growing environments, which is important to consider when designing your cell culture media.

Common cell culture media ingredients

Cell culture media has evolved significantly following the invention of Ringer’s Solution in 1882 (the first documented instance of ex vivo cell culturing). Since then, media has been continuously tweaked and optimized using a trial and error approach, with additions such as chemical-based synthetic ingredients, sera, and other naturally-derived products.

Varying the components helps to promote the cell survival, proliferation, and cellular function of different cell types and species. However, despite the diverse formulations, the essential components of cell culture media remain relatively constant:

  1. Amino acids
  2. Buffering systems
  3. A carbon-based energy source (e.g. glucose, mannose, etc.)
  4. Inorganic salts
  5. Serum (or its essential components, including growth factors, hormones, lipids, proteins, and trace elements)
  6. Vitamins and minerals
  7. Treated water

Types of cell culture media preparation

It is possible to purchase working media solutions in pre-made liquid form. Manufacturers then have the option to add further ingredients to tailor the media toward a chosen species or cell type. However, while pre-made media may be easier to use, they are more difficult to transport and store in large quantities and tend to be more expensive.

You may wish to add your own components to the pre-made media used in animal cell culture

Powdered or concentrated media preparations are cheaper and generally have a longer shelf-life. They can also offer greater control of the components and efficient development of optimized media, although they must be prepared on-site; sterilizing and preparing media for cell culture can be complex and time-consuming.

How to develop an industry-standard optimized media

Developing an industry-standard media which can be tailored according to different cell lines and stages of cell line growth is a crucial step to achieving mass-market penetration.

This can be accomplished through the trial and error approach mentioned earlier; monitoring changes after adding individual components and analyzing the results will yield custom formulations for each stage.

1. Start with a basal medium (optional)

It’s typical of biopharmaceutical companies to begin with an established basal medium and to add their own components, according to cell line needs. Alternative protein manufacturers may wish to follow this example and start by using a common mammalian media formula, such as Dulbecco’s Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM).

2. Seek serum-free media for cell culture

Animal sera, particularly fetal bovine serum (FBS), are commonly used in cell culture media. The natural cocktail of ingredients is able to emulate a proliferative environment (e.g. growth factors, proteins, hormones, lipids, vitamins, etc.)

Despite its widespread usage, FBS is expensive, has never been fully characterized, and has a number of documented issues. For example, while serum is a byproduct of the meat processing industry, there is a limited supply. Competition from a number of well-established and prosperous industries, as well as a surge in cell therapies and stem cell research, has meant that the current demand for stem cell culture media and other FBS formulations exceeds availability.

Moreover, FBS is prone to viral and bacterial contamination and exhibits immense variability, which is hardly conducive to an industry-standard optimized media. It also harbors ethical and environmental concerns since the use of fetal calves opposes the whole concept of cultivated meat.

While there is still a way to go before a viable serum-free media for cell cultures is established, there are already a number of promising FBS alternatives actively employed in stem cell culture and cultivated meat production, human platelet lysates (HPL) being one prime example.

Replacing FBS with HPL allows for optimization and potential food-grade production of animal cells by eliminating the transmission of bovine prions and other xenogeneic risks

3. Source food-grade, non-animal ingredients

Discovery platforms and databases powered by machine learning (e.g. Flourish) are valuable in the search for molecularly-identical plant compounds to replace serum and provide food-grade media components.

Peptides, peptones, small molecules, and less-refined hydrolysates from various edible plants (e.g. garlic, onion, soybeans, chickpeas) can potentially provide flavor and/or antimicrobial components, while also promoting robust growth and/or differentiation of the cells.

If sourcing from upcycled or recycled streams, these ingredients must be determined safe (pathogen and chemical-residue-free) by target market regulatory authorities.

4. Pursue high-yielding media at reduced costs

When designing their industry-standard optimized media process, manufacturers may wish to consider different host cells to increase the yield of microbial proteins dedicated to cell culture media. For example, Vibrio natriegens grows rapidly and is less contaminant-prone than its conventional alternatives. In this case, GRAS certification or safety screening is necessary.

Another option would be to pursue plant molecular farming, which has been shown to produce large amounts of bioactive, recombinant growth factors.

Plant molecular farming shows potential as a cost-effective and low-resource alternative to producing recombinant growth factors for cell growth medium.

You may also wish to consider pairing with a bioreactor company to investigate the ideal parameters on your behalf, which can also offer cost-reduction benefits.

5. Explore promising media standardization technologies

The most useful technology for media optimization is high throughput screening of cell cultures, which should include image analysis (potentially automated) to assess cell phenotype and viability.

Automation monitoring, amino acid consumption testing, and other metabolomic methodologies may also be worth exploring.

Future opportunities for cell culture media

The optimization of different types of animal cell culture media is an ongoing journey but its importance for cell cultivation technologies can not be understated.

Unique opportunities lie in serum-free formulation, particularly in the search for types, concentrations, and combinations of the various growth factors and small molecules required for the differentiation of different cell types.

Moreover, progressive technology, such as machine learning and high-throughput screening, continues to enhance the efficiency of media optimization.

Still unsure?

We can help you achieve clarity regarding the entire supply chain of cultivated meat, including specific support in designing your cell culture media. Get in touch with Bright Green Partners today.

Microbial proteins: your toolbox for food functionality

You want to create novel products like meat and dairy analogs to benefit specific groups of people while offering the same functionality as animal-based products – how do you get started?

There are numerous technologies that you could use, some work much more effectively than others, and some demand significantly greater patience.

But what if, instead of taking an existing product and splitting it down into its components before recombining them into something new, you could build your own product from the bottom up using a toolbox of microbial proteins?

Leveraging microbes, such as fungi, algae, and bacteria, can help us create novel protein alternatives that go beyond the functionality of conventional animal-based products.

In this article, we’ll explore microbial proteins in-depth including the benefits and challenges they present, key considerations when designing a microbial protein production process, and how advancements in fermentation technology could change the future of our global food system.

What are microbial proteins?

Microbial proteins, also referred to as single cell proteins (SCP), are macromolecules obtained from microorganisms, such as bacteria, algae, and fungi.

These microbes are either naturally rich in proteins and can be proliferated in a process called biomass fermentation or they can be modified to produce specific proteins using a technology known as precision fermentation.

Microbial proteins are cultivated in fermentation tanks

As a whole, the single cell proteins that can be produced are not dependent on growing seasons or climate, require little in terms of space and resources, and contain a wide spectrum of nutrients and amino acids while containing low levels of fat. Indeed, microbial proteins meet the FAO/WHO/UNU essential amino acid requirements and are therefore a promising alternative source of high-quality protein for human nutrition.

What can microbial proteins offer?

Consumers can benefit from single cell proteins in numerous ways, from the use of enzymes to improve the digestibility of food to the inclusion of additives to improve the structure and texture of 3D printed steak.

But the benefits don’t only lie with the consumers; the following are just a few examples of the advantages microbial proteins convey for food manufacturers:

Precise functionality and performance

Precision fermentation provides us with the opportunity to purify isolates and combine everything we need while excluding unessential or unnecessary molecules, thus enabling us to design functionality and performance with precise control.

Since animal-free ingredients can be used to create the same characteristics as animal ingredients, this makes microbial proteins an attractive route to animal functionality.

In fact, the ability to create novel plant-based foods using a functionality toolbox can help us take alternative proteins beyond animal proteins. For example, products can be tailored nutritionally to target each customer group based on factors such as dietary choices, age, gender, allergies, and geographical location.

Cost-effective

According to the FAO, the global market for alternative proteins is projected to grow exponentially to at least $290 billion by 2035. Therefore, the economy of scale is expected to contribute to lower operating costs and an optimized supply chain.

Microbial proteins offer the unique opportunity to reframe current food categories; it is likely that building novel products using a microbial protein toolbox will be much cheaper than splitting conventional animal-based products into components and recombining them.

Existing infrastructure

Due to the well-established existence of fermentation technology, infrastructure and equipment can be taken advantage of.

In addition to being able to tap into the existing supply chains, microbial protein production is a flexible process that can be adapted to suit different locations and economies and is resilient to changes in climate.

Opportunities across the (precision) fermentation supply chain

Utilize waste streams and by-products (swifter route to market)

Climate change and food security are two of the most important challenges we face today; microbial protein production can help form a solution for both.

For example, microbial proteins, such as hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria (HOB), can utilize multiple nitrogen sources including ammonium, nitrate, urea, and uric acid, which are commonly found in waste streams such as sewage and agro-industrial waste.

Not only does this mean that the current non-cyclic economy can be transformed into a more sustainable and eco-friendly system, but it also enables companies to step into existing infrastructures by utilizing waste streams and by-products.

Alternatively, glucose is an affordable and easy to access carbon source that is preferred by many microorganisms.

In comparison to cultivated meat and other alternative proteins, this route may enable food manufacturers to bring a product more swiftly to market since the upstream supply chain already exists.

Designing a microbial protein production process to ensure expression

In theory, the process of microbial protein production is simple: you select your gene of interest and clone it in an expression vector, transform it into a microbial host, induce growth, and purify the resulting microbial proteins.

However, in practice, designing a microbial protein production process is incredibly complex. We’ve broken it down into four steps along with some of the key considerations for optimal protein expression:

1. Cloning and transformation

The first step is to identify a gene or DNA sequence that codes for the protein of interest.

This is inserted into a plasmid (expression vector), which can easily be replicated and transferred. The plasmid is then introduced into the host organism so that the host can begin to express the encoded protein.

It’s important to choose a suitable vector and to consider which host organism to use; there are many specialty strains that are well-researched and can be adapted for multiple situations.

Due diligence must be conducted to mitigate the chance of mutations and the production of inclusion bodies.

2. Fermentation

Once the host organisms have been transformed and are producing the protein of interest, they can be grown in large fermenters to produce on a commercial scale.

Growth and subsequent protein production can be optimized by adjusting factors such as nutrients, temperature, and pH.

Occasionally, food manufacturers will have to troubleshoot their fermentation process due to a lack of expression.

This can happen due to the absence of specialized enzymes or structures, incorrectly transcribed genetic material, the presence of mutations, and improper protein folding preventing the protein from functioning as it should.

3. Purification

Several methods can be used to purify microbial proteins, including precipitation, chromatography, and electrophoresis.

To evaluate the specific properties of your protein and determine the most appropriate purification method, it is recommended to consult with an expert in protein purification.

4. Quality control

It’s important to follow good manufacturing practices to ensure sterile techniques.

Regardless, contamination may still occur due to cellular debris from the host organism, growth media contaminants, an insufficient purification process, or environmental contaminants.

Appropriate quality control tests can determine if there are any unwanted particles present and reduce the risk of contamination.

Examples of microbial proteins in food manufacturing

Here are some examples of microbial proteins that have already proved successful in food manufacturing:

Impossible Foods

Common
name/molecule:
Soy leghemoglobin
Microorganism:Pichia pastoris (yeast)
Approval status:
  • FDA “no questions” letter received Jul 2018
  • Singapore Food Agency approved Aug 2018
  • Health Canada approved Jan 2020
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand approved Dec 20203
  • European Food Standards Agency GM food application submitted Oct 2019
Existing products:Beef, pork, sausage, meatballs (own brand)

Perfect Day

Common
name/molecule:
Non-animal whey protein/β-lactoglobulin
Microorganism:Trichoderma reesei (filamentous fungus)
Approval status:
  • FDA “no questions” letter received Mar 2020
Existing products:Milk, ice cream, protein powder, chocolate, cream cheese (external brands)

The Every Company

Common
name/molecule:
Non-animal soluble egg white protein/Deglycosylated hen egg ovomucoid
Microorganism:Pichia pastoris (yeast)
Approval status:
  • FDA “no questions” letter received Sep 2021
Existing products:Protein smoothies (external brand)

The future of microbial proteins

As we continue to learn more about single cell proteins and how to harness their potential as a functionality toolbox, we can be optimistic about their role within the alternative protein industry.

With advancements in biotechnology, we will likely see more developments in the production and use of microbial proteins in a variety of food products.

For example, opportunities can be found in novel microfluidics tools, which could increase strain screening throughput, subsequently speeding up bioprocess development through experimental parallelization.

Another promising innovation is the introduction of B2B precision fermentation units that process food waste on-site while producing proteins, allowing manufacturers to seamlessly tap into existing infrastructure.

Combining these innovations with focused expertise will accelerate the development of microbial protein production even further.

The future of microbial proteins is exciting and full of potential. If you’re ready to build your own toolbox, please get in touch with us at Bright Green Partners.

3D printed steaks are game changers - here’s why

3D printing is transforming the alternative protein industry due to its efficiency, affordability, and ability to replicate complex structures.

As this innovative technology continues to develop, several companies have successfully harnessed its capabilities to create 3D printed steak, an achievement that was previously deemed impossible.

Join us as we explore the complexities of 3D printing in food manufacturing, learn industry best practices, and discover how printed steak has revolutionized the future of food.

The steak complex

Steak is incredibly elaborate.

It comes in all shapes, cuts, and sizes. It’s made up of intricately structured components including fat, muscle, connective tissues, and “juice”.

Intricately structured components contribute to the unique taste and appearance of steak

When it’s cooked, amino acids and sugars on the surface of the steak rearrange themselves, releasing distinctive aroma and flavor compounds.

That’s why creating an alternative was considered technologically unattainable. Until 3D printed steak made its debut.

What is 3D printed steak?

A 3D printed steak is a steak alternative that has been constructed using 3D printing technology.

Unlike plant-based or other alternative proteins, 3D printing builds the product layer by layer, which enables the authentic arrangement of components to mimic that of conventional meat.

The process can be customized to create varying types of steak, from 3D printed ribeye steak to 3D printed tenderloin (filet mignon).

3D printing can be used to fabricate any cut, shape, or size of steak

Theoretically, if cultivated cells are used to produce the 3D steak, the result would be an exact replica of its animal-based counterpart. Nutrient levels can even be manipulated to fabricate a product with an enhanced nutrition profile.

Printed steak composition

Manufacturers hoping to emulate conventional steak need to consider the following components:

1. Muscle

Animal muscle is made up of fibers, otherwise known as myofibrils, which are bundled together with connective tissue.

Muscle fibers can contain varying numbers of protein filaments, depending on whether the muscle has a locomotive or supportive function, which contributes to the toughness or tenderness of the steak.

These meat proteins are also involved in binding water within the fibers, contributing to the moisture content.

2. Lipids

Fat content is an important feature that results in a pleasant 3D printed steak eating experience.

However, it’s not just any type of fat; intramuscular fat results in marbled steak, which is highly prized by top chefs and meat enthusiasts thanks to its ability to influence texture, tenderness, juiciness, and taste.

The marbling effect observed in prime cuts such as Wagyu beef is due to intramuscular fat

3. Myoglobin

As one of the most abundant proteins found in muscle cells, myoglobin (a type of hemoprotein) is a crucial consideration for food manufacturers.

Myoglobin’s function is to transport iron and oxygen around the muscles. Upon exposure to air, it forms oxymyoglobin, which turns steak a bright red color and is responsible for making it “bleed”.

Scientists also believe that the addition of myoglobin, either to the cell culture medium or as an ingredient, can contribute to the bloody and metallic flavor that is synonymous with conventional meat, most likely due to its iron content.

While not a 3D steak company, Impossible Foods uses plant-based heme protein to improve the appearance and taste of its meat alternatives.

How does 3D printed steak work?

To put it simply, machines print out three-dimensional steaks layer by layer based on designs generated by computer-aided design/manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software.

Typically, the fibrous muscle components are printed by an extrusion process, whereby ingredients are pushed through a nozzle. Inkjet printing is used to disperse liquid ingredients (e.g. myoglobin “juice”) and binder jetting can be employed to distribute powdered ingredients (e.g. sugar, protein powders, etc.).

For cultivated 3D printed steaks, bioprinting is proving to be a promising technology. This method offers the advantages of scalability and controllability of structure and composition.

Is 3D printed steak vegan?

Whether or not 3D printed steak and other printed meat analogs are classified as vegan depends on numerous factors, including the ingredients, research and manufacturing processes, and the origin of cultivated cells. Even if a printed steak is labeled as plant-based, there is a chance that the company used meat in its research and development phases in an attempt to effectively emulate conventional meat.

In order to secure the success of 3D printed steaks, manufacturers should factor in consumer acceptance. Tailoring your product to suit your market audience is essential and you may wish to demonstrate transparency as a value.

For example, while Redefine Meat only uses plant-based ingredients, it does not market its product as 3D printed vegan steak. The company seeks to replace the beef industry's resource-intensive production by targeting “meat lovers”.

3D printed steak brands leading the way

While still in its infancy, 3D printing has enabled a handful of food tech companies to attract investment in their pioneering products.

Redefine Meat’s New-Meat™

Through the combination of 3D printing (which the team refers to as additive manufacturing) with advanced technologies such as material science and artificial intelligence, Redefine Meat has been able to create several groundbreaking products including 3D printed beef flank, printed tenderloin, strip loin, and lamb flank.

By 2020, the company achieved a printing speed of 10kg per hour and, partially thanks to a very successful funding round, predicts that it will be able to produce 40kg per hour by the beginning of next year.

Redefine uses a combination of legumes, extracted protein, coconut oil, and fruit and vegetable dyes to create its iconic 3D steak.

The coveted recipe has won over many of the world’s greatest chefs and is now prominently featured on restaurant menus across the globe.

Steakholder Foods’ cultivated beef cut

A B2B biotechnology company, Steakholder Foods (formerly MeaTech 3D) combines advanced cellular agriculture with 3D bioprinting to enable its clients to independently print their own 3D cell-based meats, including steak and other prime cuts.

By 2020, the company raised almost $6 million in investment and achieved success in growing high-density stem cells through the use of media.

Fast forward to today and Steakholder has pioneered a highly marbled 100% cultivated 3D printed beef cut as well as forming a number of successful partnerships with international meat importers, major supermarket chains, and other alternative protein companies.

The future of 3D printed steak

Nothing says infinite opportunities quite like 3D printing, which is why this cutting-edge technology deserves your keen attention.

Constant improvements are being made to printing machinery to improve factors such as speed, precision, food safety, and productivity.

Exciting opportunities lie in new and existing technology, such as the pixel food printer and the optimization of bioprinting through the use of tendon-gel-integrated printing.

Aside from printer innovations, the introduction of universal components and scaffolds as well as enhancements to the supply chain and cell sourcing will accelerate 3D printed steak to the forefront of the alternative meat industry.

If you’re ready to be a part of its success, reach out to us at Bright Green Partners.

5 plant-based seafood companies making waves in 2022

Drowning in facts and anecdotes about plant-based seafood and the state of the industry?

Let us introduce you to some of the best plant-based seafood companies successfully navigating the turbulent waters of this novel and exciting category of alternative proteins.

Please note that at their core, all of these brands are considered “plant-based”, however, some of them use cultivation or fermentation technologies to further differentiate their products.

Since the category is still relatively new with less than one hundred seafood companies in existence, we have included brands that emulate seafood using plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-based techniques to ensure you get a great insight into the alternative seafood currently on the market and in development.

Each of these brands has demonstrated significant growth, innovation, and higher productivity than their peers, providing inspiration to dive deeper into this nascent alt-protein category.

Here are 5 brands that are thriving in the alternative seafood space:

1. Blue Nalu

BlueNalu is a cellular aquaculture company that aims to disrupt current industry practices with its great-tasting, healthy, sustainable, and safe seafood products.

BlueNalu’s yellowtail fish analog served with kimchi. Credit: BlueNalu. Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The brand has made a series of technological discoveries including the development of a non-GMO, single-cell suspension line with high growth rates, downstream processes that eliminate the requirement of plant-based scaffolds, and an innovative lipid-loading technique that enables the creation of seafood with higher fat profiles and enhanced sensory qualities (e.g. bluefin tuna).

BlueNalu has predicted a 75% gross margin in its first year of production through a combination of these breakthrough technologies and strategic product focus. What’s more, the company’s value proposition has led to collaboration with numerous major multinational companies including Mitsubishi Corporation (Asia), Nomad Foods (Europe), and Griffith Foods (U.S.). These partnerships have enhanced BlueNalu’s global go-to-market strategies and accelerated research and funding.

2. Revo Foods

Revo Foods uses 3D printing technology to develop a range of nutritious and tasty seafood analogs.

Earlier this year, the plant-based fish company unveiled its first whole-cut analog during a tasting event in Vienna. The plant-based salmon filet was created using a blend of plant proteins, including pea and algae, and can be steamed, fried, and baked in the same way as conventional fish. Shortly after the big reveal, the plant-based seafood company secured a €2.3 million grant from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency.

In addition to its 3D printing technology, Revo Foods creates individual fiber strands using its novel fiber dispension technology to emulate the bite and mouthfeel of conventional tuna and other popular fish products. These products also deliver high protein and high omega-3 fatty acid content due to the inclusion of microalgal oils.

Plant-based seafood

Seafood alternatives are experiencing rapid growth. We reveal why they’re so popular and which factors influence whether industry players sink or swim.
Dive deeper

3. Aqua Cultured Foods

The first vegan seafood brand to develop whole-muscle cut plant-based seafood alternatives created through microbial fermentation, Aqua Cultured Foods is rapidly propelling itself to the top of the industry.

The company’s novel biomass fermentation technology creates large amounts of complete protein by using microbial biomass as a food ingredient. Unlike cultivated seafood, the products are completely animal-free and do not require any genetic modification, so they can be marketed as non-GMO.

Boasting impressive nutrition profiles, Aqua Cultured Foods’ products contain comparable protein and omega-3 fatty acids to conventional fish and seafood while also delivering on fiber, an essential macronutrient for a healthy gut.

Whole-cut analogs, such as salmon filets, can be more challenging to emulate

Whereas many of the plant-based seafood companies currently focus on chunks, fish cakes, or flaked products, Aqua Cultured Foods is exploring an opportunity in the market by developing whole-cut analogs such as calamari, scallops, shrimp, and tuna and whitefish filets. To reduce food waste, the brand also uses off-cuts and imperfect filets for the minced filling it stuffs inside its dumpling products.

4. CellMEAT

After announcing their intentions to promote alternative proteins in the country’s 2022 national plan, the South Korean government selected CellMEAT to participate in a research team for the future food technology development project. It comes as no surprise that the first company to cultivate Dokdo shrimp, a regional premium delicacy, was chosen to lead the way towards more sustainable protein production.

But despite the company’s success, South Korea is yet to approve a definition for cultivated meat, which has led CellMEAT to adapt to using Singapore as their initial market until regulations and production standards can be implemented in Korea.

CellMEAT is the third company in the world to create a cell culture medium free from FBS (fetal bovine serum), which it uses to cultivate its shrimp products. Proprietary tissue engineering and scaffolding technology are used to emulate authentic seafood shapes and textures.

The cultivated seafood company’s triumph in growing shrimp has enabled it to research other seafood prototyping, including lobster, king crab, and other expensive varieties that are difficult to farm.

Expensive and difficult to farm seafood prototypes, such as lobster and king crab, offer exciting opportunities for plant-based seafood companies

5. Jack & Bry

While many plant-based fish companies create their own ingredients using cultivation or fermentation techniques, Jack & Bry chose to use an already readily available food source: jackfruit.

Big, bumpy, and smelly, with a gooey interior, jackfruit is heralded as a sustainable replacement for staple crops affected by climate change. The inelegant fruit is harvested from a drought-resistant tree that does not require irrigation, pesticides, or herbicides, and it can be grown as part of a regenerative crop system.

After the success of its jackfruit-based meat products, Jack & Bry collaborated with The Cornish Seaweed Company to develop the world’s first non-battered jackfruit fish filet. Unlike many cultivated and fermented examples, this plant-based product has already made it to market; both Lewis Hamilton’s Neat Burger chain and the Harbour Lights restaurant in Cornwall, UK have featured the fishless filets on their menus.

Achieve your own success

The above 5 plant-based seafood companies have demonstrated just how achievable success is in a relatively young and experimental industry. Nevertheless, the turbulent waters of plant-based seafood alternatives can be difficult to navigate and much remains to be explored.

To discover how to swim not sink, reach out to us at Bright Green Partners, the leading alternative protein consultancy. Our consulting team can help you gain deep insights into the plant-based seafood industry, strategize your go-to-market plan, and secure significant market share.

The rise of Alternative Protein Industry Clusters

Food-importing countries will need to invest in alternative protein (animal product replacements) industry parks if they want to maintain food security.

The global demand for meat is expected to increase significantly by 2050, and traditional meat production methods won't be able to keep up.

Alternative protein sources, such as plant-based proteins, fermentation-derived ingredients and cultivated meat, will need to be developed to meet this demand.

As several countries have already begun investing in plants that produce alternative proteins, newcomers can now learn from the best practices. We spoke with Floor Buitelaar, Managing Partner of Bright Green Partners, about the current state of food parks.

Floor Buitelaar, Managing Partner of Bright Green Partners

What makes governments interested in the alternative protein industry?

There are numerous reasons that governments around the globe are interested in investing in the rapidly growing alternative protein industry.

For starters, it creates jobs and strengthens the economy while preparing the country for future trends.

Additionally, younger consumers demand these products as they become more conscious about sustainability.

Lastly, governments want to reduce their dependence on other nations by investing in new agricultural technologies.

This is especially true for countries that mainly import conventional livestock products.

Why are countries that import livestock particularly interested?

Countries that import livestock products are too dependent on exporting countries, which is only expected to increase in the future due to climate change, water shortages, population growth, supply chain instabilities, and other factors.

To prevent this from happening, it's crucial for importing nations to begin taking measures now to build a new economic sector.

It's important to realize that manufacturing alternative meat and dairy is fundamentally different from traditional options.

Consequently, the rise of these innovative solutions may have a drastic effect on how we cultivate food, making governments less stationary and giving them the opportunity to establish an entirely new industry.

For example, setting up bio-fermentation facilities in Singapore - a region that doesn't have much arable land - could turn the country into a hub for food production and exporting.

However, developing a food cluster to create an entirely new alternative meat and dairy industry can take years; hence, it is critical to get started in time.

Which countries are at the forefront of producing alternative proteins?

There are several examples of governments and industry clusters successfully working in the field of alternative proteins, such as Singapore, Israel, and the Netherlands.

These success stories show how to use limited land, water, or other resources efficiently, create a food innovation culture, and manage the interplay of academia, industry, and the government effectively.

This type of collaboration between different ecosystem partners is often referred to as the "triple helix model of innovation".

In addition, not only do they learn from best practices and benchmarks, but these successful governments also have associations that coordinate cluster efforts between the individual food industry parks.

Some examples of this are organizations like Foodvalley and The Protein Cluster of the Netherlands.

Singapore is successfully attracting foreign companies specializing in alternative proteins to its growing food cluster. Photo: Jason Quah

What does a thriving alternative protein industry cluster look like?

There are many challenges to creating a new food park from scratch, as several factors need to be considered.

First, it is essential to have a small, agile team coordinating all efforts while also performing program management, partnering with other businesses, building infrastructure, attracting and developing talent and enabling an innovation culture.

Second, depending on the country and function of the food park, various technologies, value chain steps, ingredients, products, and business models should be considered. In this process, it is essential to involve topic experts.

Furthermore, every industry park must have a unique selling point (USP) to set itself apart from other parks and draw in top talent, partner organizations and investments.

Example of Bright Green Partners alternative protein industry food park cluster map

What services does Bright Green Partners offer to help governments with their alternative protein journey?

We offer a comprehensive range of services for alternative protein production facilities that few other consultancies can match. And we're there to support our clients every step of the process.

Typically, we join the client's core team early on to provide insights into the challenges and opportunities of the alternative protein industry and to overcome any foreseeable obstacles.

At this phase, we provide services such as technology and market assessment and strategy development.

Afterwards, we bring in our facility development and operational expertise which starts with a techno-economic assessment, followed by conceptual design.

Once this is complete, we hand over the work to engineering and construction firms so they can handle the detailed engineering and construction phases of the project.

We're dedicated to supporting our clients every step of the journey, and we strive to build long-term relationships. This way, we can not only deliver on agreed project objectives but also support our partners with whatever questions they may have on an ad-hoc basis.

About Floor Buitelaar

Floor is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Bright Green Partners, a global consulting house focusing on alternative proteins.

Before starting BGP, Floor had gained 7 years of experience in the food industry as a consultant and ecosystem leader.

Notably, she played an integral role in developing The Protein Cluster - one of the largest alternative protein ecosystems globally.

Conceptual planning of alt dairy pilot facility
We supported our client in the conceptual planning and implementation of a pilot-scale plant-based dairy contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO).
Techno-economic feasibility study: the world's largest alt meat and dairy industry park
We made a techno-economic feasibility study of what was to be the world’s largest alt protein food park.
Conceptual design and engineering of fermentation facilities
We made the conceptual design of a pilot and large-scale fermentation facilities to produce biomass protein and precision fermentation ingredients.

Plant-based seafood: turning the tide for food security

More than 3 billion people are reliant on seafood as a significant source of animal protein.

And yet, the seafood industry remains one of the most unsustainable; according to the UN, less than 87% of global seafood production ends up for human consumption.

Plant-based seafood provides food innovators with extraordinary potential to tap into this market and meaningfully improve global access to sustainable seafood. However, compared to other alternative proteins, this nascent category generates its own unique challenges and opportunities.

Keep reading to learn more about the rapidly growing plant-based seafood sector and which factors will influence whether industry players will sink or swim.

Demand for plant-based seafood is growing

The FAO reported total fisheries and aquaculture production at a record 214 million tonnes in 2020.

It may not come as a surprise then to learn that more than 90% of wild fisheries are classified as overfished or harvested at maximum capacity.

We find our oceans approaching the crucial point of no return. Factors such as overfishing, pollution, and poor management continue to pose significant threats to biodiversity, the environment, food security, and the livelihoods of seafood-dependent populations.

Conventional methods of fishing, such as bottom trawling, pose a significant threat to ocean ecosystems

Subsequent global concern has inspired the emergence of plant-based seafood, which provides a reliable and sustainable source of food that is free from mercury and microplastics.

What’s more, in the same way plant milk has supported those with milk allergies, plant seafood is offering safe options for shellfish allergy sufferers.

"Several factors, such as the high prevalence of seafood allergies and the expensive price tag on some seafood items, have created a large pool of consumers who are highly motivated to try plant-based and cultivated seafood products."
Maiko Van Der Meer
Plant-based fish & seafood expert

Consumer demand, growing investment, and participation by major food companies have accelerated the recent development of the plant-based seafood market.

To give an example of its growth, the number of plant-based seafood products sold in retail in the United States increased by 25% in 2021 and total U.S. retail sales grew by 14% in the past year.

What is plant-based seafood made of?

To make seafood plant-based, manufacturers employ a variety of ingredients.

Some of the most frequently used components include textured soy and wheat proteins, since these provide a neutral taste and color while contributing to a tender bite and chew.

Further proteins, legumes, vegetable oils, and starches are commonly utilized to improve the texture and nutritional profile of alternative seafoods.

Carrageenan, gum arabic, and other plant-based hydrocolloids can be used to improve food structure due to their water solubility, viscosity, and gelation properties. Emulsifiers and stabilizers further enhance texture.

Plant seafoods must emulate the visual attributes of products with non-homogeneous colors and shapes

Since seafood is rarely homogenous in color, the viscosity and concentration of plant-based dyes must be considered to allow for topical spray applications.

This will contribute to the authentic appearance throughout the cooking process until the end product reaches the plate.

In order to emulate the sensory experiences associated with seafood, one must understand the key differences in flavors including salty, briny, metallic, fatty, sweet, sour, and umami.

Once these have been identified, spices and vegan savory flavorings such as seaweed and yeast can be employed to deliver an authentic taste.

To better replicate the qualities of seafood, some companies are focusing on techniques such as precision fermentation and cultivation.

Fish Maw by Avant Meats. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Plant-based seafood alternatives

With over 200 edible species of seafood available to imitate, food innovators have plenty of possibilities to play with.

There are already a variety of fish and seafood analogs on the market, although the majority of plant-based seafood companies have chosen to focus on widely popular species, such as plant-based fish (e.g. tuna and salmon), plant-based lobster, plant-based shrimp, and plant-based prawns.

Other sea plant-based foods that are currently available include squid, scallops, crab, and even caviar.

Is plant-based seafood highly processed?

Eating healthier is one of the main drivers for purchasing plant-based products but questions remain over whether or not plant seafood is considered healthy.

One such concern relates to the processed nature of these alt proteins.

Indeed, many plant-based seafood products are made from ingredients that have been stripped down to powders and isolates but one should also consider that conventional seafood is often highly processed too.

Genetic modification and manufacturing processes, such as restructuring and artificial coloring, are just a few of the processes used by the seafood industry.

Nevertheless, consumer perception is an important factor to consider when deciding how to bring your plant-based products to market.

Manufacturers must decide how to communicate the health benefits of their plant-based sea food products.

For example, transparency and education regarding manufacturing processes in addition to the emphasis on the product’s health benefits (e.g. high fiber content and nutrient fortification) could prove useful in encouraging adoption.

A sea of opportunities for driving plant-based seafood adoption

“Naturalness” is, of course, a significant factor affecting consumer motivation but GFI’s recent consumer survey revealed that the principal driver for buying plant-based seafood was in fact the absence of heavy metal and microplastic contamination.

The avoidance of common seafood-related foodborne illnesses and nutrition also featured highly. By playing to plant seafood’s strengths, companies can fortify the positive reception of their products.

The texture of plant-based seafood is an important driver for consumer adoption

The taste and texture of the products were also considered important.

Satisfying these demands requires further investment from public and private stakeholders to fuel research and development in these areas.

That being said, opting for a b2b go-to-market strategy could be a successful alternative entry point for plant-based seafood, particularly since nearly 60% of all seafood sales in the U.S. are via out-of-home channels (e.g. restaurants and catering brands). Similar strategies have proven hugely successful for Impossible Foods and other plant-based meat companies.

Sink or swim

Alternative seafood demonstrates huge potential for meeting the global protein demand while safeguarding our fragile ocean and river ecosystems and ensuring there are plenty more fish in the sea.

As the leading alternative protein consultancy, Bright Green Partners can help you gain deep insights into the plant-based seafood industry, strategize your go-to-market plan, and secure significant market share.

Get in touch to learn how we can help you rise to the top of this turbulent market and set you apart from the competition.

Alternative proteins: the bigger picture

New sources of protein present a unique opportunity to feed a rapidly growing global population with nutritious and delicious food while safeguarding public health and valuable natural ecosystems.

Yet the field of alternative protein faces numerous risks and challenges; industry players must understand the evolving market dynamics before deciding where to focus their efforts.

This guide will explore the key benefits, developments, and opportunities presented by these novel protein sources, which will help you to confidently navigate the industry and formulate high-level strategies that will drive alt proteins to the top of global agendas.

What are alternative proteins?

Alternative proteins, (alt proteins for short), are animal-free ingredients that aim to replace animal proteins, such as those found in meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. They’re designed to emulate their animal-derived counterparts in taste, texture, and culinary experience, as well as in price and availability.

Although they mimic animal proteins in many ways, they do have some key fundamental differences that make them an attractive alternative for many food manufacturers and consumers alike.

For example, alt proteins require fewer inputs (e.g. land and water) and have a much lower environmental impact compared to animal proteins.

They’re also considered cleaner, more ethical, and sometimes healthier.

Why do we need alternative proteins?

60% of the world’s ecosystems are already degraded or used unsustainably and animal agriculture is considered one of the main drivers.

And with the global population set to rise, we may have to produce approximately 70% more food with fewer natural resources, increasing the pressure on our already fragile land and ocean ecosystems.

By diversifying our protein sources and modernizing our production methods, we can significantly lower the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry. Alternative protein foods could also mitigate the risk of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic disease outbreaks while freeing up more land for conservation and rewilding.

What are the different types of alternative protein sources?

There are many different types of alternative protein sources, here are a few prominent examples that are making headlines:

Plant-based protein sources

Plant-based proteins are those which are sourced from plants and include traditional yet undervalued proteins as well as novel innovations.

They’re perhaps the most familiar alt proteins to consumers, particularly since popular alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh, and jackfruit, have been enjoyed for centuries.

While many well-known alternative protein foods use entire plants or parts of plants as ingredients or end products, others use plant proteins in more concentrated forms. Peas, for example, can be fractionated into building blocks of function: starch, fiber, and protein.

The latter is often formulated into plant-based meat (Beyond Meat being a prominent example) to provide a meat-like texture, clean flavor profile, and nutritional benefits.

The potential of plant-based proteins is immense as brands push for sensory and price parity.

Innovations continue to promise new and exciting possibilities for the end products, from expanding the offering of raw materials to producing ingredients with better functional qualities and ultimately developing game-changing products that are tastier and healthier.

Fungi-based protein sources

Although not biologically classified as a plant ingredient, the term “plant-based” is often used to encompass fungi.

However, this fascinating organism deserves its own category in this guide since it holds such unique potential for the future of alt proteins.

Fungi are perhaps the most famous for their mushrooms, the fruiting bodies. Still, it’s the mycelium of filamentous fungi that shows the most promise since the fibers can be manipulated to resemble animal muscle fibers.

What’s more, mycelium has the ability to transform organic materials into nutritious complete protein alternatives.

They’re also a significant source of fiber (which is often lacking in modern diets), low in saturated fat, and typically provide a good balance of minerals and vitamins, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, and Zinc.

Algae-based protein sources

While humans have eaten macroalgae, better known as seaweed, for millennia, recent attention has been given to their microscopic cousins, microalgae.

Perhaps the most unassuming source of alternative protein, microalgae pack a powerful punch.

Microalgae, such as chlorella and spirulina, are minuscule organisms that are often rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and all of the essential amino acids, making them a reliable source of complete protein.

Microalgae undergo fermentation inside photobioreactors, feeding off carbon dioxide and light and producing little to no waste. The process does not require herbicides or pesticides and is net carbon negative since it removes carbon from the atmosphere. As such, these tiny organisms demonstrate immense promise as an extremely efficient, environmentally-friendly, ideal protein alternative.

Despite their potential, microalgae-based products are still in their infancy and many challenges remain.

For example, brands have so far been unable to produce ingredients with a neutral color, smell, and taste, which could hinder their widespread adoption.

But with the demand for protein increasing, and agricultural land and water use simply unsustainable, diversification of our food sources is essential. Further investment and research into this field will reveal the full scope of algal potential within the alternative protein industry.

Cultivated protein sources

Mosa Meat burger by Mosa Meat. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Cultivated meat, otherwise known as lab-grown meat, is an alt protein produced directly from animal cells.

While it is identical at the cellular level to animal-derived meat, it differs in its efficiency; according to GFI, in the seven weeks it takes to raise 20,000 chickens, a million times as much meat can be grown from a starter culture the size of a single egg.

It also uses far fewer resources, produces much less pollution and waste, acts as a solution to public health risks such as zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance, and provides opportunities to tap into the omnivorous consumer market.

Nevertheless, although many alternative protein products are already available to consumers, the majority of cultivated meats remain in the research and development phase.

Scaling up to secure success is far from easy and further study and investment are needed for companies to prevail.

Despite these challenges, a few companies are already set to go to market. Here are 6 lab-grown meat company success stories to inspire you to win the future of this alt protein category

How are alternative proteins made?

Alternative protein foods are produced from plants or animal cells, or through the process of fermentation.

Dive deeper into the different production methods by reading our guides:

Plant-based
A resource that reveals the specifics of plant-based foods and their applications within the alt protein space. Discover our expert analysis, insights, and the latest in plant-based business, technology, and research.
Fermentation
A resource that reveals the specifics of industrial fermentation and its applications within the alt protein space. Discover our expert analysis, insights, and the latest in fermentation business, technology, and research.
Cultivated
A resource that reveals the specifics of cultivated meat and its applications within the alt protein space. Discover our expert analysis, insights, and the latest in plant-based business, technology, and research.

The future of alternative proteins

Alternative proteins could entirely transform the way we feed the world.

However, policies and regulations remain incomplete, and considerable knowledge gaps and technological needs exist. If the industry is to continue growing at the rate necessary to have any real impact on our global food system, it will be crucial to find solutions to these challenges.

In particular, the industry must make significant investments in the next few years to expand manufacturing capacity and scale the ingredient supply chain. Further attention should also be given to building the talent pipeline, implementing fair policies, and accelerating growth through global cooperation with governments.

As the leading alternative protein consultancy, Bright Green Partners can help you gain deep insights into the field, plan for future development, and secure significant market share. Schedule a call with us today to learn how we can help set you apart from the competition and optimize your company for success.