Increased demand for protein good news for Australian producers


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New research shows there is more than enough room for both animal-based and alternative proteins on Australian consumers’ plates. By John Harvey, Managing Director, AgriFutures Australia

The global market for protein is growing. That’s animal-sourced, plant-sourced and alternative proteins. And as our population continues to rise there will be new demand for animal protein that will happen alongside market share gains for alternative proteins.

That’s one of the key findings from our new research report The Changing Landscape of Protein Production, which is good news indeed for Australian agriculture.

In fact, a new study funded by AgriFutures Australia, found that there’s an estimated additional opportunity for the Australian protein market valued at $19.9 billion by 2030. Of this opportunity $3.1 billion is for alternative protein categories. This doesn’t just mean growth for non-traditional proteins like insects, algae, seaweed and cultured meat, but also for Australian farmers who produce plant-sourced proteins such as pulses.

The results of this research perhaps contrast some of the sensationalist reporting and news we have been hearing lately about the effects of more people choosing flexitarian and vegan diets. Really, it’s a win-win for consumers and agricultural producers alike. The alternative protein market is providing consumers with more choice and variety and it’s no threat to our traditional protein production systems, quite the opposite in fact. As new demand for animal protein from a growing global population outweighs the additional market share that alternative proteins may gain in the next decade what we’re going to see is overall growth in global protein consumption.

There’s an opportunity for producers to look at a meal as a whole nutritional opportunity and stop thinking about our individual products and commodities. It’s not about worrying what is on people’s plates – meat, vegetables, pulses, eggs, dairy, alternative proteins – but making sure there is enough protein on everyone’s plates.

This is a significant shift in mindset that was explored on day one of evokeAG. 2020, where a panel of leading alternative protein disrupters talked about the enormous opportunities for animal protein, plant protein and alternative protein markets to thrive by coexisting.

The growth of our agriculture sector depends on our ability to meet the world’s demand for food, especially protein, as this necessarily means cooperation between traditional and alternative protein producers.

This is also how we should be approaching the development of policy and regulation to sustain and improve our protein production industries. Improving our labelling, product naming conventions and marketing for example should make it easier for consumers to make informed choices about their protein and their diets.

Working together to produce more protein makes a lot of sense in this context. If businesses like Hungry Jacks, one of Australia’s most mainstream fast food outlets, can have success offering alternative protein products like the Rebel Whopper alongside their traditional meat burgers, then it’s time for a collaborative approach.

Alongside identifying opportunities for our protein market, the report showed that it will be critical for Australian agriculture to take into consideration our limited natural resources and future climate conditions.

Supply constraints were identified as the most significant challenge for livestock production in the coming decade (not increased demand for alternative proteins), which means we must make informed decisions on the most efficient and sustainable use of our natural resources.

Australian Farm Institute Executive Director, Richard Heath conducted the research on behalf of AgriFutures Australia and he concluded that “the agricultural industry cannot rely on traditional systems alone to meet the growing demand for protein around the world; however, a wholesale shift away from meat will not save the planet.”

“Both animal and plant production are needed to increase productivity and meet this challenge sustainably, and the opportunities for complementary production will benefit producers as well as consumers and the environment.”

On consumer preference, according to Richard, the research suggests, “While there are significant trends driving an increase in alternative protein consumption, consumer purchasing decisions will relate to familiarity, taste and cost, and this will continue the demand for ‘real’ meat.”

Rising demand in Asia is also likely to help animal protein dominate the market through to 2030. There is opportunity here for Australia to expand its production of quality protein even further, particularly from whole foods such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, legumes and dairy products.

We’ll need to focus on selling the positives; marketing animal protein products based on nutrition, health attributes and environmental impact. The opportunity is for traditional and alternative sources of protein to complement each other to meet the dietary needs and preferences of consumers.

Essentially the rise of alternative proteins is a good news story for Australian farmers and something to embrace. Now we have the information to adapt and grow this sector. We can respond to consumer trends, like this one and capitalise by bridging the gap between global protein demand and supply.


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