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Australia to become global player in alternative proteins market

alternative proteins

Australia is on the brink of becoming a global player in alternative proteins, with the market significantly expanding to include a variety of plant protein-infused foods, according to AltProteins22. 

AltProteins22 is Australia and New Zealand’s first alternative proteins conference, which was held in Melbourne on 18 May and supported by the Victorian government. 

Cheese made from dairy proteins “sans cow” could hit our supermarket shelves as early as Christmas, while cultivated meat such as kangaroo meatballs and chicken schnitzels grown from animal cells could be on sale in a years’ time, joining the existing 250+ plant-based meat alternatives currently in stores.  

The expansion from traditional plant-based meat products has given Australia’s farmers and manufacturers a $7.5 billion growth opportunity to create new jobs and boost Australia’s agriculture industry.  

alternative proteins

A remarkable export opportunity is right on our doorstep, with the greatest increase in demand for protein coming from Asia – home to more than half of the world’s population – where the call for plant-based meat products alone is expected to increase by 200 per cent in the next five years in markets like China and Thailand.  

Co-founder and executive director of Australian Plant Proteins, Phil McFarlane, was a key speaker at AltProteins22. He said that recent investment in alternative proteins, including $378 million by government and the private sector, is a small drop in the ocean compared to the ongoing investment opportunity needed to make Australia a manufacturing hub that produces high-grade plant-based protein ingredients.  

“This level of investment is a good start, but it certainly doesn’t represent the complete journey Australia needs to undertake to become a leading powerhouse in plant protein production. That opportunity is real and it’s right in front of us,” McFarlane said.  

The world’s growing population, expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, has significantly increased the need for proteins from all sources, with global demand for protein expected to increase 73 per cent in the same timeframe.  

Professor Michelle Colgrave, leader of CSIRO’s Future Protein Mission, said that as well as developing new plant protein products, farmers could add value by breeding new varieties of plant crops that are higher in protein, good quality, easy to digest and even free from allergens.  

“A lot of plant-based ingredients are imported, but we can build Australia’s manufacturing expertise to turn legumes including soybean, fava beans and chickpeas into higher value ingredients onshore to create 100 percent Australian-made plant-based products,” Colgrave said.  

“The future food gap is where plant-based and novel proteins, like fermentation-derived products, will have an important role to play.” 

The conference highlighted these key insights:   

  • With global demand for protein expected to increase 73 per cent by 2050, and Australian protein products already at a premium in key export markets, expanding Australia’s plant protein supply chain positions regional Australia to capture the market at our doorstep  
  • Investing in new protein sources alongside existing ones will help Australia reach its goal to grow agriculture to $100 billion by 2030   
  • Farmers have an opportunity to value-add and diversify their crops by developing differentiated plant-based crop varieties to feed into the growing plant protein supply chain 
  • Australians can look forward to many new, nutritious and sustainable protein options on their future menus, like meat created by cultivating animal cells and milk created through precision fermentation – joining the 250+ plant-based meat alternatives on shelves today 
  • The number of Australian and New Zealand plant-based meat, cultivated meat and precision fermentation companies has more than quadrupled from 2018 to now.  

“New and emerging industries like alternative proteins present significant growth opportunities for Victoria’s agriculture sector by positioning us as a leader in plant-based proteins, creating more jobs, boosting the economy and export opportunities,” Victorian minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas said. 

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