The alternative protein market has undergone rapid expansion in the last years. As consumers increasingly seek healthier, more environmentally friendly, and ethically produced food options, alternative proteins have gained momentum, offering innovative and planet-friendly solutions. In order to address these changes, there is a need for governments to propose necessary regulation and policy solutions. Despite the head start of some first movers, the legislative and regulatory frameworks are still far from robust and comprehensive.
In an era of significant focus on carbon neutrality and environmentally conscious policies, investment in the alternative protein market is seen as another pathway to reaching the goal of reduced emissions. A State of Global Policy on Alternative Proteins report from the Good Food Institute found that governments across the world invested 635 million USD in the market. In fact, in April of 2023, the UK government invested 12 million GBP (its largest investment yet) in a brand-new centre that supports research and growth of the so-called sustainable proteins (Food Navigator, 2023). This global shift in agricultural strategy is also seen in legislation. Some European governments that have already made a regulatory head start and adopted policies affecting the field are: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Despite these efforts, the state of policy remains undeveloped. This presents governments, businesses and institutions with an opportunity to make a tangible impact on the rules of the game. In July of this year, the European Union published a document which highlighted that “the European Commission is expected to review its protein policy in the first quarter of 2024, reviving hopes for a comprehensive EU protein strategy” (EU Protein Strategy Briefing, 2023). The report also highlights the strategic dimension of plant-based proteins as EU leaders have noted its potential role in improving food security.
On the other hand, the rise of alternative protein presents a legislative danger to actors in the meat market. Governments may opt for more stringent legislation on meat and meat marketing in order to promote the consumption of alternative proteins, and by doing so, reduce meat consumption among the population.
As global demand for sustainable and ethical food sources continues to rise, the alternative protein sector is poised for remarkable growth. The possibilities are vast, ranging from plant-based meats and cultured proteins to novel sources. The market not only addresses concerns related to resource depletion and environmental impact but also presents economic opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs, and traditional food industry players willing to adapt. However, in order to embrace these opportunities, economic actors must act fast, as now is the time to shape the policies and strategies that will affect the market for years to come.
Bambridge-Sutton, A. (2023, April 14). UK government invests £12m in sustainable protein Hub. foodnavigator.com. https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2023/04/14/uk-government-invests-12m-in-sustainable-protein-hub
EU Protein Strategy. (n.d.-a). https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2023/751426/EPRS_BRI(2023)751426_EN.pdf
Novel Food. European Food Safety Authority. (n.d.). https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/novel-food
State of Global Policy Report 2022 – gfi.org. (n.d.-b). https://gfi.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/State_of_Global_Policy_Report_2022.pdf
Image by Freepik.