Co-organised and hosted by the APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture from 10th to 11th May 2023, the 7th installation of the Alternative Protein & Foodtech Show 2023 featured the theme of “Food is Life” – to address our current relationship with food, and the importance of nourishing our bodies with innovative foods that are both nutritious and sustainable.
The event was joined by 150 food-tech pioneers, consumer brand leaders and future game-changers in a series of keynote speeches, insider roundtable and panel discussions. Over the two days, they spotlighted the opportunities and uncertainties across the alternative protein value chain and called for close collaboration between companies and governments bodies to ensure long-term success of the alternative protein industry.
Three key takeaways:
The alternative protein industry has seen rapid growth in recent years, working on various foodtech innovations to deliver nutritious and sustainable food options. However, many challenges exist that could impede the industry’s growth. Specifically, the cultivated meat industry faces regulatory and infrastructural limitations, research gaps, and high cost of operations which results in the causality dilemma of demand, production and investment. The industry could also face slow consumer acceptance and uptake due to food safety concerns. Meanwhile, other alternative protein players noted the lack of affordability and accessibility of alternative protein products/dishes to low-middle income groups and consumers’ low perceived value of alternative proteins sources which could affect the branding and pricing of these products.
In the face of rising protein demand, the alternative protein industry has been increasingly accepted by consumers and investors alike as part of the solution towards the current unsustainable practice of food production. However, it was shared that the nascent industry faces enormous expectations to quickly deliver on its sustainability goals, achieve high efficiency in its production across the supply chain, while keeping the products readily available, affordable and accessible. Similar to other sectors, time, patience and close collaboration among all stakeholders (i.e., government, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors etc.) are required to pursue sustainable food production.
Food is often linked to cultural traditions and habits, which makes the transition to alternative protein sources for consumers highly complex. While cultivated meat could ease the transition, not all consumers would be willing to adopt an alternative protein diet. It is essential for companies to ensure that there are alternatives within the marketplace, to build familiarity and awareness for consumers and chefs. Creating the availability of choice, coupled with long-term education campaigns on the social and environmental benefits of an alternative protein diet can support the gradual nudge for consumers towards a preference for these products.
Despite the challenges, policymakers around the world has signalled their support for cultivated meat, with Singapore having approved commercial sales. The publication of a food safety report earlier this year by the United Nations agencies – Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on cultivated meat further bodes as a positive recognition for the industry. The appetite for alternative proteins will continue its pathways onwards, and an integrated ecosystem that supports end-to-end growth across the value chain, will be vital to the emerging cultivated meat industry.