In a first for the region, the AltProteins22 conference brought together industry experts, people from multi-nationals to start-ups, academics, venture capitalists, scientists, primary producers and more to discuss the current state of play and potential for the Australia/New Zealand alternative proteins sector.
Convened by the independent think tank on alternative proteins Food Frontier, its newly appointed CEO Jane Sydenham-Clarke said the gathering would, “catalyse the many food and agriculture representatives here today to grab onto the incredible opportunities in alternative proteins”.
“We want to see Australian and New Zealand producers, businesses, and exporters benefit from this vibrant and rapidly growing sector, along with the growing number of consumers down under who are seeking new protein options on their plates,” Sydenham-Clarke said.
The key finding from the day was that Australia is on the brink of becoming a global player in alternative proteins.
“There is a remarkable export opportunity right on our doorstep, with the greatest increase in demand for protein coming from Asia – home to more than half of the world’s population – where the call for plant- based meat products alone is expected to increase by 200 percent in the next five years in markets like China and Thailand,” Sydenham-Clarke said.
The rapid growth of plant-based meat products has given the agricultural and manufacturing sector a $7.5 billion growth opportunity.
Australian Plant Proteins co-founder and executive director Phil McFarlane was a speaker and panellist at the conference. He said that recent investments, like the $378 million from the South Australian and federal governments and private sector in a plant-based hub were welcomed and needed but were “a small drop in the ocean” compared to the ongoing investment opportunity needed to make Australia a manufacturing hub that produces high-grade plant-based protein ingredients.
“This level of investment is a good start, but it certainly doesn’t represent the complete journey Australia needs to undertake to become a leading powerhouse in plant protein production. That opportunity is real and it's right in front of us,” McFarlane said.
The conference revealed that cheese made from dairy proteins ‘sans cow’ could hit our supermarket shelves as early as Christmas, while cultivated meat such as kangaroo meatballs and chicken schnitzels grown from animal cells could be on sale in a years’ time, joining the existing 250+ plant-based meat alternatives currently in stores.
The world’s growing population – expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 – has significantly increased the need for proteins from all sources, with global demand for protein expected to increase 73 per cent in the same timeframe.
Professor Michelle Colgrave, leader of CSIRO’s Future Protein Mission, said that as well as developing new plant protein products, farmers could add value by breeding new varieties of plant crops that are higher in protein, good quality, easy to digest and even free from allergens.
“A lot of plant-based ingredients are imported, but we can build Australia’s manufacturing expertise to turn legumes including soybean, fava beans and chickpeas into higher value ingredients onshore to create 100 per cent Australian-made plant-based products,” Colgrave said.
“The future food gap is where plant-based and novel proteins, like fermentation-derived products, will have an important role to play,” she said.
The conference highlighted key data and insights including:
- With global demand for protein expected to increase 73 per cent by 2050, and Australian protein products already at a premium in key export markets, expanding Australia's plant protein supply chain positions regional Australia to capture the market at our doorstep.
- Investing in new protein sources alongside existing ones will help Australia reach its goal to grow agriculture to $100 billion by 2030.
- Farmers have an opportunity to value-add and diversify their crops by developing differentiated plant-based crop varieties to feed into the growing plant protein supply chain.
- Australians can look forward to many new, nutritious and sustainable protein options on their future menus, like meat created by cultivating animal cells and milk created through precision fermentation – joining the 250+ plant-based meat alternatives on shelves today.
- The number of Australian and New Zealand plant-based meat, cultivated meat and precision fermentation companies has more than quadrupled from 2018 to now.