PLANT-BASED AND CELL-BASED MEATS GAIN TRACTION IN ASIA

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Across south east Asia, plant-based protein alternatives are gaining traction, and cell-based or lab-grown meat is also beginning to be seriously discussed, as consumers across the region become more aware of health and environmental, as well as ethical concerns.

With many people already eating largely meat-free diets, studies, including the 2019 Innova Trends Survey, suggest that South East Asia has great potential for plant-based products to take off.

The 2019 Innova Trends Survey found that vegetarian is the most widely followed diet globally with Asian consumers making up the majority. Almost 40% of consumers surveyed in India and 20 percent in both China and Indonesia indicated that they follow a vegetarian diet. In Europe and North America, vegetarians only make up 10 percent of the total.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence forecasts, the Asia Pacific region is likely to dominate the plant-based protein market and reach sales of $64.8 billion (€54.5bn) by 2030, which would be up from $13.5bn (€11.3bn) in 2020.

Alternative dairy products, at 57%, meanwhile, will make up a majority of sales in Asia Pacific in 2030. Drivers for this shift include a growing population, which is expected to reach more than 5 billion by 2030, which will strain resources and drive demand for plant-based protein.

“Food-related consumer habits often come and go as fads, but plant-based alternatives are here to stay — and grow,” said Jennifer Bartashus, Senior Consumer Staples Analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The expanding set of product options in the plant-based industry is contributing to plant alternatives becoming a long-term option for consumers around the world.

“If sales and penetration for meat and dairy alternatives continue to grow, our scenario analysis suggests that the plant-based food industry has the potential to become ingrained as a viable option in supermarkets and restaurants alike.”

Cell-based meat – a sustainable option for the future?

Cell-based, or lab-grown meat, is also gaining attention for its unique ability to offer meat-based protein, but in a much more sustainable way. Proponents say this type of protein could significantly reduce the environmental impact of farming animals, while also avoiding welfare issues and disease.

In Japanese, food authorities have been actively deliberating food regulatory matters regarding how to better use new technologies to diversify protein sources for consumers, and in China, start-up CellX has unveiled a selection of lab-grown pork dishes, where investors were invited to taste one of the prototypes produced in its Shanghai lab from cells harvested from China’s native black pig.

Lab-grown chicken meat was sold to consumers for the first time in Singapore last year, but there are currently no regulations permitting its sale in China.

CellX founder Yang Ziliang, commented: “Our vision is to change the way meat is produced. This isn’t just a China issue, it’s a global issue, so for us to achieve our vision, we need to be a global company.”

The company is aiming to produce the more environmentally friendly meat at competitive prices for the world’s top meat-eating nation by 2025.

CellX, which raised $4.3 million (€3.6m) earlier this year and is now seeking fresh funding, is also eyeing the global market.

Although lab-grown meat has potential to offer a more stable food supply, there are plenty of challenges including production costs, which are far higher than conventional protein, and a consumer base which may not be ready to buy into this alternative protein source.

However, according to Ziliang, in China, “there are lots of people wanting to try it,” and a recent McKinsey report has estimated that cultivated meat could reach cost parity with conventional meat by 2030, as the industry increases scale and fine-tunes R&D.

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