The Roots of the Plant-Based Protein Trend

Fuller Landau Team • September 20, 2019

If you think the plant-based protein trend is a passing fad, think again.

A 2017 Nielsen survey found that 43% of Canadians are trying to add more plant-based foods into their diets and plant-based eating is one of the top macro trends in the food and beverage industry.[1]

What is Feeding the Market?

Once a niche market, the demand for plant-based proteins is expanding as consumers look for new ways to get protein. While there hasn’t been a significant rise in the number of vegetarians or vegans, there appears to be an increase in flexitarians – consumers who want to reduce, but not eliminate, their overall meat intake.

Here are some key reasons for this:

Health-conscious consumers want protein-rich food options that come from a variety of sources, not just meat and dairy. Why? Recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide and recent research[2] suggest that plant-based foods are a healthier alternative to a meat-centric diet.

Consumers are increasingly troubled over the ethics of animal welfare and environmental degradation. Millennials, in particular, are more informed and concerned about the demands raising livestock has on the environment, understanding that it takes far fewer resources to raise plants.[3]

Today’s Landscape

Canadian farmers, businesses, governments, and investors are stepping up research and investments in this area to improve farming methods, increase sustainable crop production, enhance processing, and expand export development.

Maple Leaf Foods is seizing the opportunities this new market brings. In the past few years, it has invested $600 million in the plant-based protein market and is building a 230,000-square-foot plant-based protein facility where up to 30% of the space will be devoted to product innovation.[4]

Plant-based protein producers and eateries are popping up as more businesses strive to get into this growing market. Toronto-based Village Juicery serves its non-dairy beverages and plant-based entrees and snacks from its three storefronts and over thirty distributors across the city. Plant-based butcher, YamChops, recently opened its second location in Toronto under its Grown, not Raised slogan offering consumers meat-like “steak, chick*n, and pork” options.

Looking to the Future

With the $13 billion global plant-based protein market expected to increase by as much as 98% by 2050[5] and the North American market anticipating double-digit growth going forward,[6] it is clear that the demand for plant-based proteins is creating a monumental shift in the food and beverage industry worldwide. Along with this shift comes exciting opportunities and challenges for food producers, suppliers, and restaurants as this plant-based food revolution marches forward.

 

[1] Stuckey, Barb, 10 Macro Trends Impacting Food and Beverage Innovation in 2019. Forbes, January 8, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/barbstuckey/2019/01/08/10-macro-trends-impacting-food-beverage-innovation-in-2019/#687a16342f7d.

[2] Willet, Walter, et al., Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancer Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, The Lancet, v.393, issue 10170, pp 447-492, February 2, 2019.

[3] Buckner, Dianne, Business gets on board with plant-based protein train, CBC News, May, 8, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/meat-free-alternatives-go-mainstream-1.5126079.

[4] Stephenson, Amanda, Beyond a fad: Meat and dairy rush to be part of plant-based food movement, Calgary Herald, June 6, 2019, https://calgaryherald.com/business/local-business/plant-based-eating-not-a-fad-conference-told-meat-dairy-companies-rush-to-be-part-of-veggie-based-movement.

[5] Bickis, Ian, Canadian farmer, companies invest in plant-based protein amid growing demand, The Globe and Mail, February 25, 2018, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/canadian-farmers-companies-invest-in-plant-based-protein-amid-growing-demand/article38105245/.

[6] CBC News, Maple Leaf pivots to plant-based proteins with new U.S. factory, CBC Business News, April 8, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/maple-leaf-plant-protein-1.5088761.