ZURICH — The market for alternative meat, eggs, dairy and seafood products could reach at least $290 billion by 2035 and make up 11% of the overall protein market in a base-case scenario, according to a report released March 24 by Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corp.
The report titled “Food for thought: the protein transformation” forecast the market for alternative proteins will grow to 97 million tonnes by 2035 from 13 million tonnes in 2020. Assuming average revenues of $3 per kg (2.2 lbs), that volume amounts to a market of about $290 billion.
Besides a base-case scenario, the report also listed upside scenarios. With faster technological innovation and full regulatory support, alternative proteins in one upside scenario potentially could account for 22% of the overall protein market by 2035.
“Alternative proteins could soon match animal protein in taste, texture and price,” said Benjamin Morach, managing director and partner for Boston Consulting Group. “We expect parity to spur a new wave of growth, catapulting what is a fairly nascent market today into the mainstream, yielding significant environmental benefits and facilitating even faster growth.”
The rate of increase for alternative proteins will depend on how quickly they taste and feel as good as conventional foods and how quickly they cost either the same or less than conventional foods. Today the cost of goods sold for plant-based alternative proteins is about two times the cost of conventional animal proteins.
Plant-based alternatives such as burgers, dairy and egg substitutes made from soy, pea and other proteins will achieve such parity in 2023, if not sooner, according to the report. New soybean varieties grown for human consumption will need fewer off-colors and off-flavors. The protein content of soybeans and peas should be increased to reduce the amount of crops needed per kilogram of finished product. Yellow pea production needs to be expanded and industrialized. Mung beans need investments from farmers. Optimizing extraction could decrease production costs.
Alternative proteins made from microorganisms like fungi, yeast and single-celled algae will reach parity by 2025, the report forecast. Today the cost of these proteins are two to three times higher than conventional proteins. The greatest potential for reducing costs will come from sourcing and growing the right organisms.
Alternatives grown from animal cells will follow, reaching parity by 2032. Selecting the right cells and optimizing growth conditions will allow companies to reduce the cost of facilities, labor, utilities and input material per kg of finished product. The media in which animal-cell-based proteins are cultured need to become less expensive and more efficient.
Capital will be needed to support growth. For alternative proteins to reach 11% of the protein category by 2035, $30 billion in investment capital will be required to build almost 30 million tonnes of bioreactor capacity for microorganisms and animal cells. Extrusion capacity for plant-based proteins will require up to $11 billion.
Zurich-based Blue Horizon has raised more than $650 million and invested in more than 50 companies in the alternative protein sector.
“The alternative protein arena is wide open, and progress is happening fast,” said Björn Witte, managing partner and chief executive officer of Blue Horizon. “There is a real opportunity here for investors to make their moves early and become integral players in the future of food, but to successfully navigate the industry, they must hone their technological knowledge and ensure they’re one step ahead of potential disruptions.”
North America and Europe are the most mature markets for alternative proteins, according to the report. Opportunity exists in Asia Pacific, which will account for two-thirds of global consumption by 2035.
The shift to plant-based meat and eggs will save more than 1 gigaton of CO2 equivalent by 2035, which is the equivalent of Japan becoming carbon-neutral for an entire year, according to the report, and it will save 39 billion cubic meters of water, which is enough to supply London for 40 years.