Alternative protein transition accelerated by health and climate conscious consumers, study says

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AUTHOR: Molly Long
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Having a healthier diet is the main reason why consumers switch to eating alternative protein sources, according to a new study.

Conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and impact investment group Blue Horizon, The Untapped Climate Opportunity in Alternative Proteins report surveyed more than 3,700 people from seven countries across the world.

It found that three-quarters of people considered their health the primary motivator for consuming alt proteins. Of this group, 50% also reported increasing their consumption levels even more during the pandemic, as a means to further boost their health.

This motivation chimes with scientific thought on the subject of alternative proteins, which largely considers foods like plant-based meat to have a healthier nutrient profile than their animal-derived equivalents.

Beyond individual health, wanting to positively impact the fight against the climate crisis also ranked as a strong motivator.

According to the results of the study, nearly a third of consumers consider a “major positive impact on the climate” as a reason to fully switch their diet to alternative protein sources.

More generally, BCG reports that the view of the alternative protein market in the countries surveyed (China, France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, UK and US) is positive.

Some 76% are aware of the category, and around nine out of ten reported liking at least some of the alt-proteins they have tried.

This is in keeping with other recent studies, which highlight the general movement towards a so-called ‘flexitarian’ diet – an eating regime which is characterised by mostly plant-based food, with only occasional meat or dairy.

With so many people more willing to regularly consume alternative protein sources, investments in companies working in this field has risen sharply too.

The alt protein report says capital investments rose from $1 billion in 2019, to $5 billion in 2021, with funding for fermentation and animal-cell-based companies leading the way.

Breaking this down further, the data says Middle East funders, which tend to focus on animal-cell-based investments, made up 11% of worldwide investment in alternative proteins last year; while APAC investment, powered by plant-based deals, increased by 92%.

The change in habits could be a welcome turn of events for the environment and businesses alike, according to BCG Managing Director and Partner Ben Morach.

He said: “Nearly one in three people across the world are plagued by food insecurity. Coupled with the impact of the continued geopolitical crises on the supply chain and food prices, there is immense pressure on the global food system.

“Pivoting away from animal-based proteins will lead to shorter, more resilient, and potentially more local supply chains. Widespread adoption of alternative proteins can remove the risk of supply chain disruptions and play a critical role tackling climate change, with consumers playing a key part in propelling this transition.”

If alternative proteins are to have the positive health and environmental impact needed, however, “sensible and effective” regulation will need to be adopted, according to BCG.

This is already happening across markets in China, Israel and Europe – and continued success will only strengthen the alt-protein wave, the report suggests.

Bjoern Witte, CEO of Blue Horizon, said: “The products consumers are seeing on the shelves today will be followed by a wave of cleaner, healthier, and tastier alternative proteins, as technology allows for increasing innovation.

“We’ve seen the fast-paced development of these technologies in our own portfolio as well as the wider food-tech industry, leading to an overall better consumer product range. This is great news for today’s consumers, but we’re just at the beginning, really.”

Find out what the plant-based alternative protein sector has in store for the future in this upcoming Trends Panel, delivered by experts from the likes of Waitrose and Deliveroo:

A taste of trends: plant-based products in 2023

Tuesday 15 November 2022 | 14:30 – 16:00 BST 

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