Asia’s surging demand for alternative proteins could open up new export avenues for manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand, according to recent research.
The new report, Alternative Proteins and Asia, was compiled by independent alternative proteins think tank Food Frontier, market research firm Mintel, and New Zealand’s food and fiber sector think tank Te Puna Whakaaronui.
The groups say the goal of the report was to discern export opportunities for manufacturers by assessing 11 Asian countries in terms of market size and innovation, market entry and operations, and consumer intelligence.
China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Japan were identified as the top five countries with the highest market potential. The report’s findings were supported by primary research involving 5,000 consumers across these markets. According to the findings, China demonstrates the most potential as a market for exporters of plant-based meat and cellular agriculture products, such as cultivated meat.
Food Frontier Executive Director, Dr. Simon Eassom, noted that Australia and New Zealand enjoy an advantageous position due to their close proximity and history of trade with Asia. “With an expanding alternative proteins market in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand have the potential to build a major new food export industry that complements our existing ones,” he said.
According to Statista, the Asian market for meat substitutes is valued at $4.32 billion and is projected to grow annually at a CAGR of more than 33 percent, hitting $13.63 billion by 2027. The demand is highest in China, where the market for meat substitutes is expected to grow by 20 percent annually.
Even though North America has historically dominated global investments in alternative proteins, start-ups from the Asia Pacific and other regions are gathering steam, reducing North America’s market share from 92 percent to 67 percent over the past decade, the report notes.
According to Eassom, health, environmental, and food security concerns are behind the growing demand for alternative proteins. “Consumer interest in healthy and environmentally sustainable protein options is increasing, leading to more people becoming interested in a flexitarian diet — one where they regularly swap conventional animal meat for new options like plant-based meat, which provides a familiar eating experience without compromising on nutritional value,” he said.
Te Puna Whakaaronui’s Executive Director, Jarred Mair, emphasized the importance of having a comprehensive fact base on potential opportunities for alternative proteins across key export markets. “This research provides valuable market insights for our conventional protein producers as well as emergent alt-protein ingredient companies in New Zealand,” he said.
Eassom points to flexitarians as driving demand for alternative proteins in Australia, and he says, the latest research shows this is also the case in Asia. “A quarter of Chinese identify as flexitarian and one-third plan to reduce at least one type of meat,” he said. “Similarly, twenty-six percent of South Koreans want to reduce meat consumption.”
The new report comes on the heels of a new study from Asia Research and Engagement (ARE) that highlights the impact of animal protein production on greenhouse gas emissions across Asia’s ten largest markets.
“We are faced with a stark reality whereby this study demonstrates that the business-as-usual approach, even with generous mitigation measures modeled, will not lead to a sustainable future,” Kate Blaszak, ARE’s Director of Protein Transition, said in a statement. “The transformation of the protein system is not just a choice, but one that we need to embrace if we are to achieve the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, along with many other sustainability targets.”
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