Factors Enabling the Success of Alternative Protein Products

NickOttensNickOttens Community ManagerAmsterdam, NetherlandsPosts: 899 admin
What are the biggest enabling factors of the success of alternative protein products?


  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    Factors 1, 2 and 3 indicate the overall efficiency of the entire food production process. This includes the complete process: from obtaining the raw source materials, to growing the food, dealing with byproducts [waste?], packaging, presenting and transporting the finished product to the consumer [and their waste?]. What is the total energy requirement, and what is the total impact on the environment? Also, can the process deliver food at a lower cost?

    [Note: Although we can seek an efficient process, we also have to be mindful of the fact that on a finite planet there is a limit to the size of population it can support (for a given quality of life). So initiatives that consider issues around population growth and quality of life are also helpful to the big long term picture, e.g. Population Matters.]
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    Availability: will the proposed solution be available to everyone at an affordable cost? Will the intellectual property be open to everyone, or controlled by a handful of global corporations? Can every small village on the planet benefit from this new approach? Would it be feasible for every household to adopt the new technology?

    [Perhaps a solar powered fresh food factory will replace the refrigerator in the kitchen.]
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2019
    It is theoretically possible that this approach delivers a high quality food in terms of its nutritional value, as the process can be precisely monitored and controlled.

    Equally, as we have seen, it is possible that businesses cut corners and deliver processed foods of lower quality; or employ dubious processes and chemicals.

    The solution to this might be relevant education, adequate regulation, quality certification, and transparency.

    The quality of the solution might have a significant impact on the consumers' health and safety (real and perceived). With such a radical approach it is vital that we get this right, if the approach is to be successful.
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    For success, the approach also has to have a positive impact on society. If all of the above factors are satisfactorily addressed then this could be possible.

    An appealing appearance, texture and taste are important factors when we choose which foods we will eat. It should be possible to use the cell based foods in 3D printers to replicate the look of traditional foods; and to produce new innovative designs that excite and delight.
  • Kathleen_HamrickKathleen_Hamrick Posts: 66 XPRIZE
    edited August 2019
    Thank you for your insightful comments @akb! We agree: total environmental impact, energy consumption, cost, availability, nutritional value, health and safety, societal impact, appealing appearance, and texture and taste are all important factors to consider in the development of an alternative protein.

    What do you see as the biggest challenges to the success of cell based protein products? What are the biggest enabling factors?

    Similarly, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for the future of plant-based protein products when addressing a growing population’s consumption demands?
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    I agree with my colleague Kathleen that your comments are extremely insightful @akb. Can you please provide us with some insights on the role of government in the alternative protein space? Should government have a role? If so, what should it be please?
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    Hi @cnatan
    Yes government should have a role. The existing organisations should be able to deal with this new food type, e.g. health bodies, food standards agency, and environment agency. They might have to modify existing regulations and/or create new ones; but overall a similar approach to that of today might be adequate. Although society might want additional assurances, and clearer information.
  • NickOttensNickOttens Community Manager Amsterdam, NetherlandsPosts: 899 admin
    @arshimehboob and @Pasi, I would like to ask for your take on this question.

    We are now designing a prize competition to increase access to nutritious alternative protein products, which is a direct outcome of the Alternative Proteins discussions we had in the Future of Food Impact Roadmap. What do you see as the main factors potentially driving the success of alternative protein products? Do you agree with @akb's list? Would you add or change anything?

    Also, per @cnatan's question, what do you think governments can and should do about this?
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Thank you for your comments on the role governments should play @akb. Just to clarify, when we say government we mean federal not individual states? To move consumers to alternative proteins the federal government would have to set the tone and not leave it up to individual states to set their own guidelines?
  • davidsandsdavidsands Posts: 9 ✭✭
    Let's look at maize. Its principal seed storage is zein. Zein is very low in essential amino acids. Lysine is low and tryptophan (a precursor of serotonin) is absent. The technology to remove zein and insert a super nutritious protein. This would probably triple the nutritional value and impact of maize, and in the same way, it will also be applied to other crops such as rice, wheat, and legumes. Animal feeds, human foods, these can be greatly improved, and they can be grown everywhere. We have a chance to produce much more nutritious foods in an open source manner. Bring it on.
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    edited August 2019
    The so-called alternative sources of protein may become dietary staples in the future, but to promote the acceptance governments must outperform traditional sources through awareness programs.

    Challenges such as regulatory hurdles, high production costs and low consumer awareness or acceptance. Each factor has to be addressed parallelly and the key is not to treat it as a race.

    People eat meat as it is culturally ingrained despite how it’s produced; people are not eating meat because of how it’s produced.

    Not one organization will spark a movement globally in plant-based or clean meat-eating. Governments and businesses have to work together to foster change for the greater good of the public and environmental health.
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Thank you for your insightful comments @davidsands. What are your thoughts on increasing the amount of iron and B12 for example in alternative meats?
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Thank you for your insights comments @arshimehboob. I agree with governments and businesses should work together but how? For example, should governments invest more in R&D for example and provide incentives to businesses?
  • davidsandsdavidsands Posts: 9 ✭✭
    Iron needs to be there, and it has to be available. Phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) in grains ties up iron and zinc, making them unavailable even though they are there.
    When grain sprouts, phytase (an enzyme that chews up phytic acid) is produced, freeing up the bound iron and zinc. B12... maybe someone else can answer this one?

  • As for biggest enabling factors, I think for cell-based meat it primarily comes down to the following in no particular order: biomimicry, safety, and cost. Also, I wouldn't personally classify cell-based meat under "alternative protein", though I understand why one would.
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    Nutrition is a function of whole diets rather than specific food types. Thus, the presence of meat as a source of vitamin B12 may be critical for a malnourished person in a low‑income country with a very poor diet, but of little consequence for someone with a more varied diet.
    In the case of iron, beef and cultured beef provide roughly the same amounts of iron, more than chicken and pork.

    Regarding the, joint public‑private investments and new platforms for innovation acceleration and market development, similar to the renewables industry was “pump‑primed” by
    some key governments in the 1990s and 2000s, with a global public good benefit in mind.
    In particular, investments in technology and production methods that can be scaled in
    ways that maximize sustainability is critical, and may not be delivered purely by the market. There is, therefore, a substantial opportunity for a smart public‑private intervention to help shape and accelerate a new protein economy.
    Also, government regulatory authorities should come with a strong spirit of co‑creation to identify and adopt the best ideas that address environmental and societal challenges to new markets.
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Thank you for your insight comments @KrisGasteratos. What about consumer adoption in terms of cell-based meats?
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    @arshimehboob You have raised some interesting comments on nutrition. So, just to clarify, an individual should get their nutrients/vitamins from a whole diet and not rely on a specific food? Any examples on a whole diet please?
  • @cnatan I think those three components are what will eventually lead to consumer adoption.
  • Kathleen_HamrickKathleen_Hamrick Posts: 66 XPRIZE
    @KrisGasteratos thank you for providing input regarding these three enabling factors as they pertain to cell-based meat. In the area of cost, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for disruptive innovation that might reduce cost and thus reduce time to market for cell-based technologies?

  • Probably not the answer you're looking for @Kathleen_Hamrick , but optimizing scale up for: Cells, Media, Bioprocess, Automation, and Scaffolding. The companies themselves, of course, are most aware of their biggest hurdles to get things to market... but then you run into the dynamic of trade secrets!

    This was why we at CAS had so many issues when we explored funding/advancing independent, natural science R&D years ago (and there weren't even that many companies at the time!). We would start a project with an academic that we had confidence was not duplicative and would have results that would push things forward, but ultimately felt this was no match for the way industry could advance innovation. I have many thoughts on this, mainly from failed experiences and really thinking how CAS could help push things forward in the most productive way. Lmk if it would be helpful to expand upon "why the industry can often times be better suited than independent, natural science research to push cell-ag forward".
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    @KrisGasteratos Yes, please expand upon "why the industry can often times be better suited than independent, natural science research to pull cell-ag forward?"
  • KrisGasteratosKrisGasteratos Posts: 5
    edited August 2019
    Sure, to quote something we've drafted in the past on this topic (all of which I still believe to be true):

    The state of academic, natural science research prohibits us from a
    committed engagement because...

    1) Its effectiveness towards accelerating cell-ag products to market is unproven and according to commercial
    partners of ours, “unlikely to be significant”
    2) Due to the bureaucratic nature of academia, it can be too slow and a project that a company can complete overnight
    can take a semester or more in academia
    3) Projects are carried out by those still in the learning process and amateur work like this simply takes longer as
    students have multiple responsibilities in academic life, not to mention the work is likely subject to more mistakes
    4) Funding can be inconsistent, sometimes difficult to use once attained, and generally of lesser quantity
    6) IP can get caught up in universities through the use of their labs
    7) **Perhaps most importantly, the research is isolated and academics are unaware of the current advancements going on in the industry (not their fault, simply due to trade secrets). They are, therefore, not keen to the up-to-date science/research achieved and only aware of what is advancing in their academic circles.

    With that said, there is still worthwhile research that can be explored that is productive and efficient in accelerating cellular agriculture globally. We just find discovering the nature of this needed-research is quite a difficult venture and have had experiences where it changes quickly. For instance, the first research fellow at CAS carried through a project that we were fortunate (due to our connections) to know was a topic that was unexplored by companies and if successful in what it was trying to show, would indeed help push the industry forward. Ultimately, within a few weeks of this student carrying out the project, we heard from the same companies that they now think this idea doesn't have utility so they are exploring another direction. Meanwhile, we were stuck now with a project that was not as important as we once thought. This especially troubles us, when we know funding can go to other programming which would not have as much risk of being duplicative or not productive. All in all, this is what manifests into where we focus our attention now, and there are certainly others in our field who disagree with me that natural science research is indeed important. And in some cases, I agree, but just find it's more of a cost-benefit issue to me and these projects generally have quite a high cost that's just too risky IMO.
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Very interesting and insightful comments @KrisGasteratos. We will review all of the points you listed and follow-up if needed. Thank you so much!
  • Sounds good, thanks @cnatan
  • DrJanetDrJanet United StatesPosts: 6 ✭✭
    The burning of the Amazon, the "lungs of our planet," has been caused by loggers and ranchers as a means to clear land for more cattle grazing. The only way to ensure that people and the planet will thrive is to have humanity change from animal-based diets to plant-based diets. We don't need any new formulation or space age technology. We have perfectly healthy vegetarian diets available with a plethora of delicious recipes incorporating sustainable vegetable proteins and providing all the vitamins and minerals needed for good health and longevity. All we need to do in this world is educate humanity to save the planet and themselves by making one change. EAT LESS ANIMAL PROTEIN and replace with PLANT PROTEIN. @arshimehboob You are correct, its about a complete, nutritious diet not a single food or nutrient.
  • cnatancnatan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    Thank you @DrJanet for your comments and welcome. What are your thoughts on government intervention and can you please list some sustainable vegetable proteins?
  • DrJanetDrJanet United StatesPosts: 6 ✭✭
    Lol! Government intervention with the beef lobbyists?!? Never happen.
    Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are sustainable affordable sources of vegetable protein.
  • NickOttensNickOttens Community Manager Amsterdam, NetherlandsPosts: 899 admin
    Set aside for a moment the question of whether or not governments are likely to act; what do we want them to do to promote meat alternatives?

    @Balaban, @Evan_Fraser, @Kent, @PranavSTH, you may have insight here from the policy side. Please join the discussion!

    Remember, we're not just focusing on the US, but governments around the world.
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