Exercise: Alternative Proteins Trends

Situation: Mike works for a food company and has been researching alternative protein trends.

These were his words in a brief appearance he had at a food tech conference, he said.


In countries with economic wealth, there is growing consumer interest in alternative proteins. The Changing consumer behavior and interest in alternative-protein sources are due in part to health and environmental concerns as well as animal welfare.

Several entrants in the alternative-protein space are already rolling out new technologies and ingredients, and some are attempting to solidify their place in the market. Innovative food companies are able to mirror the customer experience of eating meat to a much higher degree.

There are strong social media marketing campaigns to gain traction for their products. In addition to that numerous fast-food chains announced deals with alternative-protein producers to offer vegetarian options for popular menu items.

Alternatives are protein-rich ingredients sourced from plants, insects, fungi, or through tissue culture to replace conventional animal-based sources

Four alternative-protein profiles offer promising opportunities for companies:

  • Plant protein: This type of protein is the most well-established and is derived from protein-rich seeds through dry or wet fractionation. The most popular types for consumers are soy, followed by pea, and several niche types, such as chickpea, rapeseed, and lupin, among others.
  • Insect: Crickets are the most common source of edible insects and a good source of protein. In fact, some producers are already milling crickets for flour. However, it is currently cost-prohibitive to isolate protein from the flour as the cost of the crickets is high, making the process difficult to scale. Food producers are also exploring using grasshoppers as an edible insect source, but development is still in an early stage. Other insects are more commonly used in the food industry. Ynsect uses mealworm, while Protix uses black soldier flies.
  • Mycoprotein: This protein source is typically composed of whole, unprocessed, filamentous fungal biomass, commonly known as mold. It has been around since the 1980s and is produced through fermentation of biological feedstock. Fungi contain approximately 40 percent protein, are high in fiber, have limited carbohydrates, and contain no cholesterol.
  • Cultured meat: Scientists have been working on this protein since 2013 when the first lab-grown burger made its public debut. Cultured meat is made using tissue-culture technology (the process by which animal cells are regenerated using a single cell as the source) to propagate animal cells in vitro. This process creates muscle tissue that mimics animal muscles and has the same protein profile.

Technology investors, sensing an opportunity to capitalize on the increasing globalization and industrialization of food, are investing heavily in startup companies, which pitch alternative methods of growing, manufacturing, processing, and distributing food. The scale of interest and investment in alternate proteins seems to have intensified, and there is a growing consensus that this trend is here to stay.


Questions

  1. Why are people interested in alternative proteins?
  2. What are fast-food chains doing?
  3. What are the main alternative protein sources?
  4. What are the main plant protein sources?
  5. What are the most common sources of edible insects?
  6. What are technology investors doing?

In addition, a member of the group has to summarize the key points of Mike’s brief appearance.

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Soy José Manuel, Profesor de Inglés y creador de EduTico.com, un blog cuya misión es compartir recursos para docentes y estudiantes de Costa Rica