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Plant-based ingredients need $27B in infrastructure investments to meet 2030 demand, report says

Dive Brief:

  • If plant-based meat alternatives continue to expand at their current rate, they will represent 6% of total meat consumption by 2030 — which means that manufacturers will need to produce 25 million metric tons of the products per year to meet demand, according to an analysis by The Good Food Institute. The report projects that to get there, the world would need at least 800 extrusion factories, each of which is able to produce at least 30,000 metric tons of extruded protein product per year, representing a total investment of $27 billion.
  • The report projects significant supply crunches for common ingredients in plant-based food to meet the hypothetical 2030 demand: 16% of the global supply of coconut oil will be needed, 34% of total pea production, 10 times the projected global supply of enriched pea protein, and 2% of total soy production — but three times the projected global supply of soy protein concentrate.
  • A detailed analysis like this has the ability to help farmers, ingredient producers and plant-based manufacturers see in advance where supply chain weaknesses may present themselves, and make changes before these problems hamper progress and sales.

Dive Insight:

On the other side of the impressive growth rates that plant-based meat has posted during the last few years is a harsh reality. The segment’s continued growth relies not only on consumers choosing plant-based alternatives more often, but also on the raw materials, manufacturing facilities and supply chain to get it to them. And without taking a careful look at ingredient supplies and processing capabilities, plant-based meat makers run the risk of finding the point at which they cannot create ample supply to meet demand.

The numbers in GFI’s new report seem daunting, considering the massive expansions that would be needed industrywide in order to meet demand. But they provide a basic roadmap for what lies ahead, and in enough time that producers, ingredient providers and manufacturers and investors can begin to prepare for the future.

The analysis essentially looks at all of the plant-based meat products available today through the lens of what would be needed if the same products in the market today kept growing at the current rate. According to the analysis, 62% of products are wheat and soy based, 16% are pea based and 14% are soy based. This is relatively good news — wheat and soy are both already produced on a massive scale, and the report estimates that just 2% of global production of both soy and wheat will be needed for plant-based meat.

But pea protein, on the other hand, may pose supply and cost problems. Only 28% of the the pea is protein, meaning there are many byproducts — primarily starches — that aren’t used. Because it takes a larger amount of peas to make a smaller amount of protein, commodity prices of peas are relatively volatile, the report says. And more facilities are needed to process peas into extruded proteins that can be made into meat analogs. Discovering a market on which to sell the pea starches and investing in processing facilities now can help stabilize pea prices in the future, cementing the round legume’s popularity in plant-based meat, according to the report. 

Ingredient processing is also a pain point that could make itself much more evident. However, the report points out, the estimates for what would be needed on the processing equipment and facility side — aspects such as land acquisition, number of extruding machines and utility needs — are based in the products and processes that exist now.

For manufacturers and ingredient companies to work toward meeting future demand, the report urges exploration of alternative plant proteins, as well as seeking opportunities to use sidestream products, like spent grains from brewing, to create plant-based meats. The report also recommends large industry partnerships in ingredient R&D and supply in order to find more supply and efficiency, highlighting Givaudan and Buhler’s joint plant-based Innovation Center in Singapore and Cargill’s $75 million investment in Puris in 2019.

From a product standpoint, in a fast-developing field like plant-based meat — it’s been seven years since Beyond Burgers were introduced and six years since Impossible Burgers first appeared on restaurant menus — eight years can seem like an eternity. While there will surely be new innovations, products and processes for the plant-based sector by 2030, the incumbent industry can use the lead time to prepare for them.

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