Signals #18 – Alternative Foods


  • Global meat consumption is expected to increase 88% by 2050. Dairy consumption will likely increase about 30-40%.
  • These changes will increase greenhouse gas emissions by more than 130% and require extra pastureland the size of India to feed livestock.


  • Alternative meats, plant-based dairy and grown seafoods cut land usage, pollution and eliminate the harm done to animals.


  • Plant-based meat = Meat products made from (typically) soy and pea proteins, meant to taste like meat and marketed to carnivores.
  • Cultured/grown meat = Meat made from real animal cells, but grown in a food production plant. First approval for sales (chicken bites) in Singapore in late 2020. More approvals due in 2021-2023.
  • Plant-based dairy = Vegan milk-like beverages or cheese analogues.


  • Start supplying pre-prepared meals with alternative proteins. This area is clearly underdeveloped and a market white space, but still worth $377 million and has grown over 25% over the past two years.
  • Focus on the untapped niches. Plant-based eggs sales were only $10m in 2019 but the category is one the fastest-growing: 192% in dollar sales growth.
  • Create supplementary plant-based products such as condiments and dressings.
    • Example: Wozi is a natural flavor enhancer designed to do one thing: make food taste better without sacrificing health. Revenue $500-2,000/month.
  • [Pro] Help people make the change to a more plant-based diet. The Scientific Meal Planner creates balanced meal plans based on a pre-programmed algorithm. The premium version charges $8/month and is racking in about $400/month.
  • [Pro] Supply the raw materials to a booming industry:
    • Fermentation uses microbes to produce protein efficiently. Fermentation companies got funded by over $700M during 2019-2020. It’s described as the third pillar of the alternative protein industry alongside with cultured and plant-based approaches.
    • Fat is another component that’s needed to create the meaty flavor to plant-based products. For example, Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria to produce large quantities of triglycerides and lipids. It recently raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures (also a backer of Impossible Foods).
    • Geltor has created a “Ingredients-as-a-Service” platform. It’s essentially a variety of techniques to grow proteins for the food and cosmetics industry. Geltor is backed up by more than $100M in funding.
  • [Pro] Help spread the knowledge about alternative meat, dairy and other products, as they’re still not mainstream.
    • Start a YouTube channel. Plant Based News has almost 500,000 subscribers.
    • Start a newsletter. The Spoon has +25,000 readers.
    • Work with the big brands and get paid to promote their products or build an ad-based model.



Eggs & Dairy

Plant-based proteins



  • People are slowly starting to accept alternative proteins to their diet. 2020 saw a 264% increase of plant-based meat consumption in a 9-week period in the U.S.
    • However, current total consumption of alternative proteins is still only around 1% in the U.S. markets.
  • The total alt protein market is poised to reach $290 billion in 2035.
  • [Pro] Plant-based foods outgrew (11.4% growth in 2019) the total retail food market (2.2% in 2019) by a factor of 5.
  • [Pro] Plant-based/cultivated meats have many positive side effects:
    • Decreased GHG emissions.
    • Land resources freed for other uses.
    • No harm to animals, no harm to animal habitats.
    • Less zoonotic diseases (such as COVID-19).
    • No antibiotics used.


  • Plant-based companies are up against the economies of scale and heavy subsidies offered for the meat industry.
  • The automation of future grown meat production can have far-reaching implications for job markets. Meat production is one of the largest employers in agriculture.
  • [Pro] There are signs that even though people want to buy more sustainable food and other products, they often don’t. Narrowing the intention-action gap is key. Tools for this include social influence, habit-forming and knowing when to appeal to emotions and when to rationality.
  • [Pro] High prices compared to traditional alternatives are still an issue. Some price comparison examples (2020 levels):
    • Soy protein: $1.0/pound
    • Real beef burgers: $2.80/pound
    • Plant-based alternative (Beyond Meat): $6.25/pound
    • Cultivated/grown meat: $150/pound


  • A lot of alternative protein companies got funded in 2020. During the first quarter a total of $741 million was raised. Halfway into the year the sum was already $1.5 billion. The year ended in a total of $2.53 billion. The alternative food space is red hot right now.
  • Beyond Meat, one of the first companies to enter the space, made +$400 million of revenue in 2020 but at a net loss of $52.8 million. We’re still early in the game and big names struggle to be profitable due to investments.
  • KFC is dabbling with bioprinted chicken in its Russian restaurants.
  • [Pro] Plant-based jerkys could carve a slice from the $2.8 billion meat snack market. Examples include Leaf Jerky and Krave’s Plant-Based Jerkys.
  • [Pro] 95% of households still buy traditional cheese – planted-based cheese consumption is only 2.9%. The market is still waiting for a proper adoption (or a good-enough product) for this niche.
  • [Pro] The combined market value of Beyond Meat, Tattooed Chef and Laird Super Food might hit +$30 billion in 2021.
  • [Pro] Types of cultured meat include fish (19%), pork (19%), poultry (22%) and beef (25%).
    • Geographical share of cultured meat companies: North America has 40%, Asia 31% and Europe 25%.


  • Urbanization, population growth and the growing middle class will drive the growth in demand of meat and meat-like products.
  • Leveraging existing meat supply chains will be crucial for the success of planted-based companies.
  • We will see more ingredients for proteins: sunflower, potato, rice, fungi and more.
  • [Pro] The big players are also getting in the game. NovozymesDuPont and DSM are all developing their own alternative protein product lines. It’s not just startups conquering the space anymore.
  • [Pro] Different segments will reach parity with meat at different times (= products indistinguishable from real meat):
    • Plant-based alternatives: 2023
    • Alternative proteins from micro-organisms: 2025
    • Cultivated meat: 2032
  • [Pro] The estimates for total market adoption by 2035 for alternative proteins vary between 16-22% in an optimal case. Some say that 10% would be a more realistic goal.
  • [Pro] We will start seeing more branding for alternative food products. Companies grow out of the lab-phase and start connecting with cultures, cuisine styles and lifestyles.



  • Alternative, non-animal based foods are making their way into our diets, albeit slowly. Biggest drawbacks are still price issues, consumer skepticism and lack of sales permissions.
  • However, one can still expect these products to go into mainstream during this decade.
  • [Pro] The space is arguably still in the early phases. The B2B ecosystem has not yet formed properly. New ingredients will emerge. Consumers will soon see wider adoption alternative proteins in restaurants and everyday food items.