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In a recent piece on Food Industry Executive, there was an interesting article on the four mega-trends that will define the food industry in 2021. I don’t think it will surprise those of us in the industry that plant-based food and beverages are expected to continue their impressive growth and expansion into a wide range of products such as seafood, snacks, dips, sauces, cheese, spreads, and creamers. It seems like only yesterday that when you spoke of plant-based products, you were referring to milks and/or Beyond Beef or Impossible Foods. Now, not only do you have these new products coming online, you even have the retail sector getting involved with companies like Kroger putting a variety of products into production.

However, Lisa Keefe, editor of Alt-Meat Magazine takes a slightly more measured tone regarding this trend in inaugural Fall edition of the magazine. Yes, sales of plant-based meat substitutes have been tremendous this year but after all, with COVID, people were buying lots of products to stock their pantries, including beef and other meats which also saw excellent growth. How do the prospects for these products look in a post-COVID world? Well, as Alt-Meat points out, with $1.1 billion invested into alt-meat companies in the first six months of 2020, clearly we have a lot of people betting that this product has a future well beyond this year.

But that’s not the only food innovation I look forward to watching over the coming years. Another one which also seems to be on the verge of exploding is that of cultivated or cultured meat. In just the past few weeks, we have seen the approval of cultivated meat products in Singapore, and the first head-of state sampling cultivated steak. This technology is still in its infancy but when you consider that it takes six weeks to grow a chicken to slaughter weight but only six days to cultivate the same amount, the long term economics of such a technology are clear. It is simply a matter of time before the investment in this field brings prices down to what consumers are willing and able to pay.

Now, if we discussed alternative meats only a few short years ago, you would likely have had to include opposing viewpoints from traditional meat processors. Not true today. In fact, most of the big players in traditional protein are now present in the alternative protein market. Examples include Tyson, JBS, Smithfield, Hormel, Cargill, Perdue, OSI, and ConAgra, to name just a few.

No, I think it is safe to say that alternate proteins, including plant-based and cultivated meats will be appearing on our dinner table with much more frequency as time goes on.

Readers interested in learning more and being part of this engaging discussion on alternative proteins should mark October 12-15 on their calendars. The educational program at 2021 PROCESS EXPO in Chicago will include the session Tomorrow’s Foods Today: Plant-Based Proteins, Cultivated Meats and Beyond, featuring Lisa Keefe of Alt-Meat Magazine, Zak Weston of the Good Food Institute, and a top- notch panel of food processors (both alt and traditional) we are convening to discuss this critical topic and consider what the future offers.

For those in our audience more interested in a hands-on approach, you will be happy to know that PROCESS EXPO will also feature live demonstrations of a plant-based chicken nugget line currently in development by a variety of exhibitors. More information on this line will be released in early 2021 and registration for the show is scheduled for March of next year.