As consumer demand for new, innovative foods continues to increase, manufacturers have one question on their minds: “What’s next?”
With so much growth in the alternative meat and dairy product categories, all eyes are now shifting to finding new protein sources. Over the past few years, synthetic brands like Impossible and Beyond Meats have become mainstays at grocery stores and restaurants. Even the fast food industry has begun adding plant-based meat alternatives to their menus. But what if plant-based meat is only the beginning? Manufacturers need to invest in the proper systems to remain competitive as there’s more and more wide-spread demand for pure plant protein, and even a growing interest in insects.
More than ever before, consumers want food that won’t contribute to global warming the way that livestock production does. Gen Z especially wants to see these plant-based alternative proteins — evidence shows that this isn’t just a fad, but rather a collective lifestyle change.
The vegan movement, once on the fringes of society, is now mainstream. While environmental concerns are certainly tied to the movement, more and more consumers are also frustrated with how animals are treated, and they’re no longer buying into the happy farm images on product packaging.
It’s not just consumers who want to see more alternatives to meat and dairy products on the market. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations are advocating for an increase in more sustainable food that can meet the needs of a growing population without negatively impacting the environment. Preserving the farmland and water resources that otherwise go to factory farming are crucial to feeding future generations. States like California are even investing in academic research into alternative protein.
Food awareness is an important part of consumers’ lives, where much of the food they consume is researched in advance. Research suggests plant-based proteins are in some ways healthier than meat, providing more nutrients. Across the world, schools are experimenting with alternative proteins to provide better nutrition to students as well.
According to new research, the plant-based protein segment of the market was the largest share of the total global
alternative protein market. As plant-based proteins become normalized, manufacturers need to be aware of what’s coming next: insect protein. Crickets are expected to account for the most growth in edible insects, as they are easy to farm and full of protein.
Currently, in Western countries, insects are either a delicacy, a matter of heritage, or a novelty. They’re certainly not a major staple in the diet, as the general public regards bug eating with a “yuck” factor. But, recent food trends toward meat alternatives suggest that consumers could be open to incorporating bugs into their diets.
While it’s not vegan, insect eating offers many of the same benefits as plant-based proteins. For starters, bugs have a high nutrient density, including B vitamins, essential amino acids, fiber, iron, and even omega-6s and omega-3s. They’re also more environmentally friendly to cultivate than traditional livestock farming. Insects take a fraction of the resources to farm than animals, even though they produce higher yields. Some experts even argue that adopting more insect protein will mitigate carbon emissions.