Food giants appointing teams to focus on plant-based products
The figures were published following a four-year investor engagement programme between the FAIRR Initiative and 25 large food retailers and manufacturers. FAIRR’s Sustainable Proteins Engagement network includes a coalition of 88 investors, which work with 15 retailers and 10 food manufacturers including Nestlé, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Carrefour, Costco, Amazon and Walmart. The network aims to encourage major food firms to diversify their protein sources to drive growth following the surge in demand for plant-based products.
FAIRR’s research found that two in five global food giants with combined annual revenues of $459bn now have dedicated teams to develop and sell plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, with Tesco and Unilever ranked top.
Tesco and Unilever were praised by investors for their commitment to shift food portfolios to more sustainable protein sources, demonstrating board-level support for a climate-aligned protein transition (the shift away from animal proteins towards plant-based and new protein sources), and completing a climate ‘scenario analysis’ on their commodity supply chains.
Costco and Kraft Heinz were said to be “falling behind” their rivals, while Amazon, which continues to expand its presence in the grocery market, remains silent on its approach to enabling a climate-aligned protein transition.
In total seven of the 15 retailers now sell, or plan to sell, plant-based meat alternatives “on the meat aisle”.
Watershed year for plant-based market capitalisation
The data comes from the new online Sustainable Proteins Hub for investors and ‘Appetite for Disruption: A Second Serving‘ report, launched recently by FAIRR. The report highlights new research that shows over $1.1bn of venture investment has flowed into alternative proteins in the first half of 2020, more than double last year’s total investment ($534m). The alternative protein market is expected to grow to $17.9bn by 2025.
According to FAIRR, global food giants are responding to alternative protein growth by growing specialist teams to accelerate the development of plant-based technologies and products:
• Kroger, Coles, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all have dedicated human resources focused on plant-based product development.
• Half of the engaged manufacturers (Conagra Brands, Kerry Group, Nestle, Saputo, Unilever) said they have dedicated individuals or teams focused on alternative protein development, such as new product development or new protein sources.
• 10% of all Nestlé’s R&D employees are now dedicated solely to the development of plant-based products, while Unilever has invested $94m in a new innovation centre housing 500 employees with a focus on plant-based innovation for brands like Knorr and Hellmann’s.
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