Rising awareness of the positive health effects of proteins, coupled with population growth and economic progress in Asia, have caused the global protein demand to soar. Growth in global consumption of meat proteins is projected to increase by 14% by 2030 compared to the base period average of 2018-2020, driven largely by income and population growth, according to OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. Millions of people globally are also economically dependent on this industry, across the value chain.
Growth in meat production and consumption on a protein basis, 2021 to 2030
Note: the 38 individual countries and 11 regional aggregates in the baseline are classified into the four income groups according to their respective per-capita income in 2018. The applied thresholds are low: <US$1,550, lower-middle: <US$3,895, upper-middle: <US$13,000, and high: >US$13,000.
Source: OECD/FAO (2021)
In high income countries, however, changes in consumer choices, ageing, and slower growing populations will lead to a levelling off in per capita meat consumption and a move towards the consumption of higher valued animal protein.
However, the current modes of animal protein production, particularly at the scale they have now reached, are causing considerable concerns for the planet, including:
- 80% of deforestation is due to forest being converted to agricultural land;
- Meat accounts for 60% of all Greenhouse gas emissions produced by food production; and
- (Mis)use of antibiotics for growth promotion in intensive farming – a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance – is expected to grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030.
These key issues have fuelled the need – as well as consumers’ appetites – for alternative proteins, such as plant protein, mycoprotein, algae, insect, cultivated meat, and more.
As a result, alternative proteins are expected to grow albeit slowly. The consumption of alternative proteins is mainly centred in high income countries due to changing diets and higher relative costs. While consumer interest in the alternative protein sector remains strong, consumer demand will continue to prioritise animal protein. However, it’s expected that consumer preferences will be more influenced by the nutritional content in protein, and its sourcing, as compared to protein substitutes.
There are several challenges in which alternative protein producers will need to innovate, be it from advancing technologies, consumer acceptance or value positioning, such as in pricing, cultural consciousness, nutritional value, and ingredient sourcing, which affects the very core of its production.
Can the world feed a population of nearly 10 billion in 2050?
Since the 1960s, global growth in agricultural production has exceeded population increase. While population growth is an important driver of increased food demand, its impact is amplified by changes in the types and quantities of food demanded per consumer. As per capita income has increased, diets have changed to include both more calories and more varied and expensive foods. However, food systems are already surpassing some planetary limits for key resources and are generating food loss, waste and high energy consumption.
Animal protein companies must pivot to become more sustainable businesses to be able to prosper and continue to feed the world’s population in future. Given that traditional proteins still account for 98% of the global market, unlocking solutions to make the value chain more sustainable and impact focused should deliver more rapid solutions. More can be done to support this transition to climate smart farming, in areas such as smart data, to make operations and supply chains more sustainable.
In conclusion, the global agrifood market is currently influenced by technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, sustainability issues and geopolitical factors. These highlight the importance of resilience, innovation, and collaboration in addressing the various challenges the industry faces worldwide. To ensure a healthy future, the world’s growing population must be fed in a manner that is healthy, equitable and sustainable, so companies will need to invest in innovations across the protein spectrum.
Sources: FoodNavigator, Rabobank Research, GROW, UN, OECD-FAO