2022 predictions: Huge surge in alt-protein innovation and possible consolidation within the market

Consultant and VegTech Invest CEO Elysabeth Alfano provides her thoughts on likely trends to strike the food industry next year

In this latest set of 2022 industry predictions, consultant and CEO of VegTech™ Invest Elysabeth Alfano expects innovations in alt-protein to escalate as investment on the category shows no sign of slowing down. 

Alfano also predicts some consolidation to come about in 2022 as competition in the alt-protein market heats up at record pace. 

Here she provides a breakdown of the key areas in the alt-protein market than are likely to see increased investment and innovation next year:

Elysabeth Alfano also host the podcast, The Plant-Based Hour in which she interviews business owners within the category

Investing in plant-based is about to get personal

2021 was all about the big investment numbers by large corporate VCs raising big money from big names. 2022 will be all about the individual and retail investors that purchase shares via public stock markets and the secular trend of plant-based eating. The shifting global food supply system will also play a pivotal role in where and how these investors choose to put their money. 

Industry innovations to soar 

1. Plant-based is starting to make real sense

At the 2021 Superbowl, Oatly president and CEO Toni Petersson, sang, “Wow, No Cow.” Although the oat-milk company has been pushing the mantra for some years now, the phrase is starting to actually make sense as innovations like precision fermentation are able to produce animal dairy without the animal. By the end of 2022 I expect we will see small tasting opportunities for cheese made with cell-based animal proteins. Companies like Change Foods, Better Dairy, ReMilk, and Those Vegan Cowboys are all hard at work on developing and commercialising this technology. 

2. Hybrid cell-and plant-based products

Cultivated animal fats (again no cow!) will begin to replace distinctive seed and nut oils for tastier burgers, sausages and patties that will cook better and offer an arguably more attractive outcome for the environment, the animals and consumers that still want to enjoy the taste and feel of real meat. 

3. New era for ingredients

As producers move away from mono-cropped soy, wheat and corn, ingredients like chickpea, mung bean, fava/faba bean, mushroom and barley will play a bigger role for alt-protein brands in their packaging and advertising. Companies like Ingredion, ABinBev, InnovoPro are shifting the landscape through the use of unique ingredients and these have an interesting story to tell to consumers.

4. Veggies of the sea

Plant-based seafood is all the rage: Aqua Cultured Foods, Good Catch, The Plant Based Seafood Company (made with Konjac), New Wave Foods, Shiok Meats (made from cellular agriculture), Save to Sea (made from carrots) are all developing alternative-seafood products to cater to those seeking to reduce the massive environmental impact of catching and consuming seafood. There are so many plant-based seafood options already available and we can expect many more on the way. Plant-based seafood will be to 2022 what plant-based chicken was to 2021.

5. Myco Protein

Mushroom or fungi-based protein makes whole cuts of meat possible. Companies like The Better Meat Co, Nature’s Fynd, AtLast and Meati are creating whole cuts of meat from bio-mass fermentation. When perfected, this technology will be an industry game-changer for centre-of-the-plate protein.

Sustainability will drive consumer trends

Innova Market Research recently stated that planetary health surpasses personal health as the number one reason people are switching their diets to plant-based. Along these lines, environmental packaging will take top priority, as companies like Evanesce produce unique solutions that provide a truly sustainable solution for disposable food packaging.

Overall, the market is healthy and innovation is on the rise, running parallel to increased awareness about plant-based eating. There may be some consolidation or attrition of brands as competition heats up, but the reconfiguration of the marketplace won’t slow down the rate of consumption and adoption.