Moonshot 2030: plant-based proteins key to sustainable future

To feed 10 billion people by the middle of this century we must fundamentally and boldly change our food system — and alternative proteins are an essential part of the solution for healthy people and a healthy planet.

In a Moonshot 2030 panel that was an important part of our Summit + Expo Plant-Based Foods & Protein Americas 2021 the discussion focused on what is needed to make the transition to more plant-based foods and who is needed to get us there.

Joining the panel, chaired by Bridge2Food’s CEO Gerard Klein Essink, were:

To be, in fact, a true moonshot for a healthy and sustainable future and to accelerate that vision it was agreed innovative, integrated efforts will be required. Collaboration with all sectors of the food system will be essential, including more research and technology development, regulatory changes, large-scale investment, leadership from Big Food, a strong focus on consumers, and changes to the global supply chain.

Question 1: Who is needed to get us there?

Natale — When we look at it, tremendous ground has been made with the consumer in the past five years, but more has to be made, in particular with flexitarians and early adaptors. And what can we offer to those who are not yet interested in plant-based?

McClements — From the point of view of an academic, it’s a new area and few universities include courses on plant-based foods and the science behind it at the undergraduate and graduate level. If we want to train a new generation we need to have the scientists. We really need the funds to support graduate students in this area.

Negowetti — There’s a role for every stakeholder to play. The domestic sourcing initiative we’re working on with farmers and agriculture will have a lot of benefits to ensure innovation is happening on the ground.

Raven — Regulatory framework to support the route to market is something that is missing. And getting the Big Food companies’ support with investment and portfolio changes is required. More pressure has to be put on them.

Eckhouse — I also think it’s important that as we focus on taste that we also focus on nutrition. I would also mention that these supply chains are global and we need to have people from around the world in the room. Governments can also help lay the ground rules for regulatory changes that work for everyone, globally.

Question 2: What is needed to get us there?

Negowetti — The conversations with the people above need to happen before we can set concrete goals. In the meantime, we can think about how we measure progress, such as the number of acres farmed for livestock use versus for human consumption. Right now at PBFA we are in the middle of a strategic planning process.

Raven — There are a number of different estimates by different organizations about the growth rate of plant-based foods by 2030; it can conservatively vary from 10 per cent to 28 per cent or 16 to 60 per cent by 2050. The considerable variation is dependent on the pace of consumer uptake and innovation.

Natale — Is this a discussion of push or pull? At every level this needs to come from the consumer. That’s why it’s important that it’s not just one company involved. When they see the demand Big Food, Big Ag will see the opportunity and will find ways to make significant investment.

Eckhouse — While it’s great to see the growth in plant-based, we’re not seeing the commiserate reduction in meat consumption: that’s a real challenge in terms of an ecological challenge, environmental challenge. How do we chip away at that so plant-based isn’t just another option? Part of that is the global supply chain.

McClements — The modern food industry is criticized for the impacts it has not just on the environment but also on health. As we design a new food system we can focus on both health and sustainability. We could transform the health of the nation. We need to focus on health and nutrition from the beginning. That needs to be a focus of research.