Unlocking Europe’s protein fermentation potential: a key to a sustainable future

August 11, 2023

Europe holds nearly half of the world’s protein fermentation capacity, setting the stage for a massive leap in sustainable food production, as detailed in a new report by the Good Food Institute (GFI) and Integration Consulting.

Using the fermentation process, companies can manufacture meat and seafood substitutes with similar flavours and textures, thus fulfilling the demand for animal products without actually farming them. This innovative method involves growing mycoproteins, which originate from fungi, using a process analogous to beer or yoghurt production.

The imperative of fermentation-derived protein

The significance of protein obtained through fermentation is highlighted in a study in nature, which suggests that substituting just 20% of the world’s beef with fermented meat could halve global deforestation. Quorn’s fermented meat has a carbon footprint 70% lower than that of chicken, reinforcing the environmental value of this approach. Apart from its sustainability, protein fermentation also offers a solution to food waste by converting surplus agricultural products and byproducts into palatable, nutritious food, thereby creating additional income sources for farmers.

Challenges and solutions for scaling protein fermentation

While Europe holds a significant 47% of the protein fermentation capacity, the increasing consumer demand may strain this capacity. There is also an evident mismatch between the current manufacturing capacity and the local needs of the burgeoning industry, both in terms of scale, location, and technical capabilities. The report emphasises the need for increased governmental funding in research and development to assist the commercialisation of these sustainable foods and achieve climate objectives. The importance of existing facilities such as Ghent’s Bio Base Europe in propelling the industry is stressed, and the need for businesses to invest more in fermentation capacity is highlighted. Repurposing existing industrial sites and equipment could reduce upfront costs significantly and speed up the time-to-market.

Carlotte Lucas, Senior Corporate Engagement Manager at GFI Europe, encapsulates the promise of the sector, saying, “Fermentation can deliver the meat people want sustainably, while giving farmers the potential to create new revenue streams and freeing up space for nature.”

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