Real money in faux meat business

Though the number of vegans and flexitarians (who are semi-vegetarians) is on the rise, , meat is still one of the most important sources of protein the world over.

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Published: Fri 20 Mar 2015, 10:16 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:49 PM

With the human population expected to cross the 9.5-billion-mark in about 35 years, concerns about feeding the masses is growing. There are worries as to whether animal farming would be able to sustain the huge increase in demand for meat.

Deep-pocketed investors including the likes of Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder; Christopher Isaac (Biz) Stone, one of the founders of Twitter; and Eduardo Saverin, a Facebook founder, have started investing in start-ups that are producing sustainable versions of meat and dairy products.

Silicon Valley start-ups that are getting into the sustainable food business, producing plant protein stuff known as ‘faux meat’ or ‘mock protein,’ are not only attracting substantial amounts from investors, but are also signing up deals with some of the leading retail chains in America and other parts of the world.

A Canadian start-up, Gardein, which produces veggie chicken, fishless fish and faux beef, supplies to nearly 25,000 stores across North America. Hampton Creek, another leading plant-protein producer, recently signed an agreement with a leading retailer, Foodbuy, and has been selling eggless cookies and mayonnaise.

While the traditional global food giants are getting uncomfortable with the growing popularity of the new line of faux meat products, the newbies still have a long way to go. Though the number of vegans and flexitarians (who are semi-vegetarians) is on the rise, especially in places such as California, meat is still one of the most important sources of protein the world over.

The Food and Agriculure Organisation (FAO) estimates that with growing population, rising affluence and urbanisation, demand for livestock produce will soar especially in developing countries. Global demand for livestock is projected to jump by 70 per cent by 2050 to feed a population of 9.6 billion.

But what is causing concern is the unsustainable practices in the animal husbandry segment. The livestock sector in the largest user of agricultural land both for grazing raising feed crops. Livestock have a significant impact on climate change, management of land and water and bio-diversity.

It is estimated that livestock generates nearly 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The new crop of Silicon Valley start-ups see tremendous opportunities in the plant-protein segment, where they can create faux meat products, which they believe will satisfy the craving for the real thing.

Many of these companies employ multi-disciplinary teams comprising food scientists, bio-chemists, bio-informatics specialists and even chefs to cook up different new non-meat products.



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