This isn’t just good news for European protein markets. As an industry proof of concept, it’s also a critical milestone toward global protein sustainability.
Protein is a hot topic and increasingly recognized as the world’s “other” big sustainability problem alongside energy. But unlike energy sources, we actually have highly granular control over a wide range of protein production and consumption options. Within the toolkit of related technologies and policy levers, mycoprotein is emerging as one with some of the most promising potential. Yet most people have still never heard of this highly nutritious, meat-like fermented fungal protein. That’s about to change.
Earlier this month, the world’s largest mycoprotein production facility celebrated its ribbon-cutting ceremony in Sas van Gent, The Netherlands. The new plant, operated by food-biotech company Enough, will initially produce 10,000 tonnes of Abunda mycoprotein per year, a B2B protein ingredient with versatile food industry applications, made using upcycled renewable feedstock from the Cargill facility with which it is co-located. But that’s just the appetizer. The new facility was built with a central focus on scalability. By 2027, Enough targets production of 60,000 tonnes per year—the equivalent of growing one cow’s worth of protein every two minutes.
“This isn’t just good news for European protein markets,” says Vincent Brain, General Manager of Bridge2Food, part of the EU stakeholder consortium supporting the project. “As an industry proof of concept, it’s also a critical milestone toward global protein sustainability.”
A multi-stakeholder initiative
This milestone was achieved with €16.9 million in funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership with the European Union, under its Project Plenitude initiative. Alongside Bridge2Food, other Plenitude partners include wide-ranging stakeholders spanning the gamut of protein technologies, from cell-based, plant-based, and animal-based meat, to ingredient providers and research organizations: Wageningen Research, Mosa Meat, International Flavors & Fragrances, Enough, Cargill, Vivera, Anglo Beef Processors, Life Cycle Engineering, and Lactips.
As explained by Nicoló Giacomuzzi-Moore, executive director of the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking, “[this] first-of-its-kind facility uses a zero-waste process to offer consumers a sustainable and affordable meat alternative, while taking pressure off ecosystems and natural resources.”
Just how much pressure are we talking about? According to Enough, the impact from switching one million tonnes from animal sources to Abunda mycoprotein is equivalent to replacing five million cows, or over 1.2 billion chickens. That amounts to reducing more than six million tonnes of CO2 emissions, or the equivalent of planting more than 30 million trees.
All about scalability
With scalability often identified as a key bottleneck for some of the otherwise most promising emerging protein technologies, that’s exactly what Enough set out to address: “The constraint on growth [of the market] is a supply chain challenge of providing high quality protein sources at scale that can make delicious foods,” explains Enough CEO Jim Laird. “Enough’s aim is to grow capacity for sustainable non-animal protein sources in line with needs of the market.”
As one of the largest livestock and feed producers in the world, Cargill’s Managing Director for Starches, Sweeteners and Texturizers business in Europe, Franck Monmont, added: “As global demand for protein continues to rise, this collaboration with Enough serves as another avenue to help realize our mission of nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.”
A practical roadmap
While flashy startups and protein-tech investment rounds continue to dominate food industry media headlines, some are beginning to appear like hypothetical, best-case-scenario hopes of their founders and investors, many of which have little or no food industry expertise. In reality, few seem poised to achieve the market impact they promise anytime in the near or medium term.
In contrast, the multi-stakeholder nature of the Plenitude project, along with support from the European Union, point toward a far more tangible roadmap for protein industry progress. And as the opening of this new facility demonstrates, Enough isn’t just talking the talk—they plan to commence sales of their Abunda mycoprotein as early as December of this year.