Accelerate the protein transition by focusing on health and quality and seeking greater collaboration

'Despite growth and demand fluctuations, the world of meat substitutes remains immature.'- Steven van Dalen, Senior Manager Strategy & Transformation.

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The world of meat substitutes has developed remarkably in recent years, driven by a growing demand for sustainability and healthy eating. For example, a Health Council report strongly recommends eating 60% plant-based proteins. Despite this growth, however, the market is far from mature. Recent volatility in demand for meat substitutes points to challenges such as intense competition and stable growth in demand. We must move away from replacing individual diet components to accelerate the protein transition and focus on the integral value chain.

Integral approach to the protein transition
The path to a more sustainable food industry requires replacing traditional meat with meat substitutes and a holistic approach to food innovation. We must create hubs where innovative startups can flourish, supported by shared services such as finance and marketing. These hubs allow companies to collaborate and share production sites, promoting scalability without the pitfall of over-ambitious growth. The Economically-Powered Protein Transition through Innovation in Chains (EPPIC) and The Protein Community are great examples. We make three arguments for this approach.

Quality and Health

Volatility in the meat substitute market is partly explained by intense competition for shelf space. However, the main reasons for product failure are often lack of taste and unhealthy additives, especially salt and saturated fat. It is crucial to shift the focus from quantity to quality. By collaborating with experienced parties, startups can focus on developing flavorful and healthy products.

Sustainability and transparency
The idea that meat substitutes are always sustainable is a misconception. Although often more sustainable than meat, it is essential for the credibility of the sustainable story that the new alternatives are transparent. Producers must provide transparency about the origin of raw materials and adhere to strict sustainability standards before making claims about the sustainability of their products, and a comprehensive approach makes this easier.

Collaboration as a key to success

Young companies often lack the operational processes and marketing capabilities essential to product success. The proposed business model advocates collaboration with established parties to leverage the best of both worlds. By starting with high-quality raw materials and collaborating with experienced producers, the focus can shift from convenience additives to creating flavorful and healthy products with a shorter and more transparent chain.

To accelerate the protein transition, we must shift the focus from rapid substitutions to collaboration, leading to innovation and shorter chains as parties share or jointly execute certain functions in their business models. Hubs of innovation and cooperation between startups and established parties are critical to sustainable success. It is not just a matter of producing meat substitutes but redefining how we approach food production and consumption. Through this shift, we can not only satisfy the growing demand for alternative protein sources but also explore new business models that create a profitable and sustainable food industry.