Dialing into plant-based protein

by Jeff Gelski
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Chris Shanahan, the global program manager of food and agriculture for Frost & Sullivan, said sustainability and health benefits may lead to cell phone-like market growth.

ORLANDO, FLA. — Telephone wires can be difficult to find in sub-Sahara Africa, said Chris Shanahan, global program manager, food and agriculture, for Frost & Sullivan.

“A lot of countries skipped that technology,” he said in an April 8 presentation at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando.

They went directly to cell phones.

Likewise, people in the emerging markets of sub-Sahara Africa, India and China might skip diets heavy in meat and seafood, Mr. Shanahan said. As their incomes rise, people may be able to afford such diets, but the countries in the emerging markets might go directly to diets featuring plant-based protein, with pea protein as a leading candidate.

“Just because it’s easier to adapt,” he said. “It’s easier to resource.”

Animal-based proteins such as meat, dairy and eggs take more feedstock and other resources.

“The amount of energy needed to produce that meat is much greater, significantly greater,” Mr. Shanahan said.

In developed markets, including Japan, Europe and the United States, an aging population may choose plant-based protein for health benefits, he said. For example, soy and oats have qualified health claims related to heart health.

Plant-based protein may fit into what Mr. Shanahan called “freedom foods.” They are free from health worries, ethical worries and food safety worries. Pea protein fits into all “freedom food” categories, he said. Frost & Sullivan estimates the pea protein concentrate market will have 11.3% compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2020.

Currently, animal protein continues to dominate an expanding protein market and accounts for 61% of the market, according to Frost & Sullivan. Plant protein makes up nearly 14%, and amino acids make up 25%.

Plant proteins are taking share away from dairy protein, Mr. Shanahan said.

“But not as much as you would think,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot more market expansion in terms of new products. We are seeing more consumers buying fortified protein products.”

Mr. Shanahan said the protein market in the future could see more consolidation and vertically integrated companies. Ownership of raw materials will benefit protein ingredient suppliers, giving them access to fields or dairy cows.

“If you own the source, then you are going to dominate in the market in the long run,” he said.
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