Pulse Beat Individual Articles

Expanding Plant-Based Food Market Leads to Expanding Opportunities

June 2021
Miranda Burski, Marketing and Communications Consultant, Protein Industries Canada

THERE’S NO QUESTION that the global demand for plant-based food, feed and ingredients is increasing. Between a growing worldwide population, the desire to lead a healthy lifestyle and support for a sustainable food value chain, many consumers are turning to plant- based foods and beverages for part or all of their protein needs.

According to an Ernst and Young Report recently commissioned by Protein Industries Canada, the global market for alternative- meat products alone is expected to reach up to CDN$180 billion by 2035. Based on this estimate, Protein Industries Canada expects the overall global plant-based foods market to reach CDN$250 billion by the same year.

Canada is in a particularly good place to benefit from this growth. Bill Greuel, Chief Executive Officer of Protein Industries Canada, expects the country’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector could supply 10 percent of the global market or one in every ten plant-based meals. Importantly, this ability will be driven, in part, by the rising demand for ingredients derived from Canada’s diverse raw commodities.

“It looks very promising for the crops that we produce at scale here in western Canada,” Greuel said. “Consumers want choice, and these diverse sets of plant-based ingredients that we can create from the crops we produce in western Canada give that choice.”

While soy is expected to remain in the top spot as the plant-protein ingredient of choice, western Canada’s more traditional

crops — such as peas, lentils and other pulses — won’t be far behind. The Ernst and Young Report estimates the demand for crops used in alternative-meat products could rise to approximately 66 million tonnes, with soy and peas making up

more than half of the crop mix.

Ensuring Canada reaches these goals won’t be an easy task, but it will be achievable. One particularly important step toward such an achievement is an alignment and proper leveraging of strengths across the country — and among every link in the value chain.

“What we really need to do is coordinate and collaborate along that ecosystem,” Greuel said.

“If we’re collaborating along the value chain, what we can do is make sure that consumer preferences are communicated back through the value chain very, very quickly. And if there are adjustments we need to make from a plant-breeding perspective—perhaps it’s protein functionality or allergenicity or off flavours that we can change via plant breeding — creating that feedback loop makes sure that we’re meeting end-use customer demands as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

One of Protein Industries Canada’s goals is to help move this work along through collaboration and co-investments into projects that advance Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector. Within Manitoba alone, and together with industry, they’ve committed more than $143 million into research and technology projects within the sector.

These have varied in focus, from improving traceability and marketing opportunities within the plant-based foods sector to developing new processing technology and ingredients. All, however, have led to benefits along the value chain.

The building and commissioning of new processing facilities provides some of the clearest examples. Over the past year, Merit Functional Foods and Roquette each opened their new facilities within Manitoba while developing new ingredients as part of Protein Industries Canada co-investment projects — Merit Functional Foods with The Winning Combination and Pitura Seeds, and Roquette with Prairie Fava. Both facilities have begun commissioning their products, with their ingredients being used in consumer-facing products sold across North America.

Expanding domestic processing in this manner means consumers have access to new product options, but it also gives farmers new selling options. With a wider domestic market, they have the choice to sell their crops to Canadian processors or to export them to processors around the globe. An increasing domestic market, however, also means fewer environmental impacts related to transporting commodities to those foreign processors, as well as a stronger Canadian economy.

Seeing Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector reach its $25 billion potential will take work — Greuel estimates the country’s processing capacity needs to increase by approximately 6 million metric tonnes to reach demand — but it’s work worth doing sooner rather than later.

“I think what we’re going to see, over the course of the next five to seven years, countries around the world are going to look at the growth potential of plant protein and build out the infrastructure to meet that demand,” Greuel said. “It’s important for Canada that we invest now, build the infrastructure now, so that we’re so that we’re in a position to satisfy that global demand.”