GFI has released its trio of State of the Industry reports, discussing the pillar categories of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-enabled proteins. The reports also hint at a fourth emerging category — plant molecular farming (PMF).
PMF works in a similar way to fermentation, but the process takes place inside plants instead of bioreactors. This could eliminate the scaling challenges of producing proteins in large fermentation tanks, with the process instead taking place in greenhouses or even open fields.
According to GFI, there are already 12 known companies working in this area. These include the US’ Nobell Foods, which uses soybeans to grow animal-free casein, and New Zealand’s Miruku, which uses this method to produce dairy proteins, sugars, and fats. Similarly, Israel’s BioBetter uses tobacco plants as bioreactors to create animal-free growth factors for use in cultivated meat production.
Alt protein thriving in Asia
As yet, there are no known plant molecular farming companies in Asia. However, the Asian alt protein sector continues to thrive, seeing a huge 43% year-on-year rise in investments despite a drop globally.
With growth in the US slowing down, the distribution of alt protein investments is steadily shifting toward the east. Meanwhile, Asian alt protein companies are increasingly partnering with each other and with conventional food producers to speed up progress. An example is the collaboration between Shiok Meats and Minh Phu Seafood, which aims to develop a cultivated shrimp R&D facility.
GFI also notes that almost all the world’s major meat producers and CPG companies now have a financial stake in alt protein, becoming allies to the industry rather than rivals.
“This united front in the race to rapidly scale up production and increase consumer appeal of alternative proteins is being further aided by the construction of new shared-use contract manufacturing facilities like plant-based protein factory Cremer Sustainable Foods, which opened its doors in 2022, and large-scale precision fermentation facility ScaleUp Bio, which is on track to open later this year,” says GFI. “This is how industry-wide growth is achieved — by investing in an infrastructure ecosystem that benefits the entire sector, rather than any single company or person. “