With over 9.7 million Americans now following plant-based diets in March 2020, the alternative protein market is projected to reach $15.6 Billion by 2026. Entrepreneurs from all around the world are now creating unique businesses to prioritise healthy foods at the forefront. Here’s how.
The success of companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat has drawn significant attention to the plant-based protein sector. For instance, recently Bill Gates said that because of the climate effects of beef production, wealthier countries should completely shift to plant-based synthetic beef.
This movement signals a significant shift in the way people are eating and understanding the relationship between their food choices, their own health, and the health of the planet at-large. As we learn more about the impact our dietary choices have on the resources that sustain us—water, land and climate—opportunities for companies that specialize in plant-based products have opened up. In March 2020, over 9.7 Million Americans reported following plant-based diets, compared to just 290,000 in 2004. And since March 2020, over 2 million new shoppers in the plant-based category have created a massive demand for innovative products that speak to their needs—better-for-you, convenient, plant-based alternatives that fuel a healthy lifestyle. The plant based protein market is projected to reach $15.6 Billion by 2026.
Entrepreneurs at the Forefront
I have interviewed many entrepreneurs who have sensed this opportunity and created unique businesses. For instance, I recently talked to Jenny Goldfarb, founder of Unreal Deli, which produces vegan Corn’d Beef, Roasted Turk’y and now their brand-new Steak Slices. She was was recently on Shark Tank and received a $250,000 investment from Mark Cuban who commented “Every great company starts with a great CEO, but needs great products to really succeed. Unreal Deli has both.” You can read my Forbes interview with Jenny here.
Another example is Brad Charron, CEO of ALOHA, an employee-owned plant-based food company that also prioritizes creating the healthiest products possible. As Brad told me when I interviewed him for Forbes: “We only do plant-based, only high protein/low sugar, only USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten and soy free, only premium ingredients, no sacrifices, no shortcuts, no trade-offs, no bullsh*t. From the ground up, this is a company constructed around good, healthy, plant-based food.”
It is important to recognize that this movement is not just about vegetarians and vegans. For instance, Sam Dennigan, founder and CEO of Irish plant-based food company Strong Roots who told me that is a focus of his venture, “we believe that better food should be available to everyone. We’re not looking to only feed vegans or strict plant-based practitioners that can afford a premium. We want to be a brand for everyone- our recent expansion into Walmart means we’ll be bringing our plant-based range to aspiring flexitarians, families looking to make dinner healthier, and the everyday consumer, as well as vegans.
Global Changes for the Planet
This trend is thus truly a global phenomenon. On my China-focused podcast China Corner Office for instance, I interviewed Tao Zhang, the co-founder of Dao Foods International, a cross-border impact venture that invests in eco-friendly, plant-based, and alternative meat in China. Tao discussed why the plant-based sector is essential for China’s environmental future, the innovative products of the companies Dao Foods invests in, and the growing acceptance of these foods among the younger generation of Chinese consumers.
And another example of the global reach of this trend is vegan meal kit brand Simple Feastwho aims to address the massive environmental impact of meat production by championing regenerative farmers and focusing on waste minimization. The company was founded in Denmark and I recently interviewed CEO Jakob Jønck, right before they entered the US market.
It is clear that one company can have a big impact. For instance, Simple Feast calculates they save 2,235 lbs of CO2 and 60.5 gallons of water per meal compared to an average meat diet. Based on these figures, in January, 2021 alone, the company helped save a total of 13,362,147 gallons of water and 493,341 pounds of CO2.
Imagine the impact if we all ate more plant-based meals!
Written by Christopher Marquis, Samuel C. Johnson Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise, Cornell University