The early years of the pandemic (2020-2021) saw large and indiscriminate growth throughout the alternative protein category, 2022 was a more measured time for the space with developments coming in the form of product innovation, industry-wide collaboration, and inroads made into markets with higher barriers to entry.
To recap, here is an overview of some of the top stories in the alternative protein space last year:
I – Vegan Cheese & Egg Alternatives Take Off In Asia
While vegan alternatives to cheese and eggs took the U.S. and European mainstreams by storm in 2021, these products didn’t enter the Asian markets until 2022 where they were met with rapid and enthusiastic adoption.
The region has quickly moved to prioritize these options and developments to date indicate the market potential of these categories. Developments to date include the region’s first-ever dairy-free festival held in Jakarta last September, Thailand’s first vegan cheese factory, Green Rebel-an Indonesian startup-has entered the dairy-free realm, and South Korean startup Armoured Fresh secured over $20 M to bring its almond-based cheese to new markets. In the egg alternative space, Evo Foods from India announced it will be working with Ginkgo Bioworks to create even more realistic products. Also in 2022, Japan saw two new egg alternatives launched: Umami’s konjac-based product, and Kewpie’s soy-based scrambled egg alternative.
II – Plant-Based Product Innovation Soars
Never-before-seen products were a hallmark of the alternative protein category in 2022. These included whole-cut items, like Jucy Marble’s loin product and seafood options like ultra-realistic salmon fillets from both Revo Foods and Plantish. Other product innovations utilizing unique ingredients came across categories with peanut-based chicken launching from Haofoods, kenari nut gelato from FairFlavor, and chickpea-based ice cream from ChickP.
Alternative seafood, an emerging sub-category, welcomed much innovation throughout 2022 as well as market entrance from some notable major players. Thai Union debuted in this category with the launch of a line of vegan shrimp options, while SDC portfolio company ISH Foods also came to market with the ultra-realistic Shrimpish product. Indian startup SeaSpire launched a vegan snapper made using bioprinting techniques, while UK-based Jack & Bry has recently launched unbreaded plant-based fish fillets made from jackfruit.
III – The Plant-Based Market Picks Up The Pace In France
The French plant-based scene has started to catch up with that in neighbouring European countries after exhibiting significant growth throughout 2022.
Market acceleration started with the fast-food chain Burger King’s move to add vegan bacon to its menu. The QSR partnered with La Vie Foods in May to use plant-based rashers on its burgers. In June, just one month later, local food tech startup HappyVore secured over 35 million Euros to fund the buyout of a Chevilly-based facility which is the largest specialized vegan meat factory in France. Later in the year, Umiami (a plant-based meat producer) officially took over a former Unilever factory to kickstart large-scale production of vegan meat and fish. According to Umiami, after a full remodel, the factory may be able to churn out upwards of 22,000 tons of whole-cut plant-based meat.
IV – Food Giants Delve Into Plant-Based Innovation
With vegan and flexitarian diets becoming even more mainstream, 2022 saw large food corporations looking to participate in the market boom and expanding their vegan offerings. In January France’s dairy giant Bel Group kickstarted the trend by launching a vegan Babybel product with a plant-based version of The Laughing Cow classic launching soon after. Through a partnership announced in February with Chile’s vegan leader NotCo, Kraft Heinz unveiled new plant-based products in October including dairy- and egg-free mayonnaise as well as three vegan cheeses. In December, Kraft Heinz also rolled out a vegan edition of their popular Philadelphia cream cheese product in the U.S. market.
Outside of the alternative dairy space, big food corporations also doubled down on their overall vegan ranges with companies like IKEA pledging to increase their vegan menu offerings, and retailers like Amazon Fresh adding a myriad of new vegan products to their platforms.
V – Alternative Protein Market Grows Rapidly In India
The plant-based industry in India also had a breakthrough year in 2022. The momentum started building early with news breaking that domestic delivery giant Swiggy officialized a deal with vegan firm GoodDot to add a separate plant-based category to its platform. Then, Mumbai-based Blue Tribe Foods scored by signing power couple Anushka Sharma (Bollywood celebrity) and husband Virat Kohli (cricket star) as brand ambassadors.
India’s leading spices company, Agromatic Nutrifoods, then revealed a whole new line of frozen vegan meats while Evo Foods covered other alt-protein bases by launching the world’s first heat-stable vegan boiled egg. By the time Spring rolled around, BVeg Foods had begun upgrading its analogue products by working with Swiss production leader Bühler, and newer startup the Greenest Brand closed a pre-seed round and continued expanding its range of meat alternatives.
Drink maker Novolutions has announced intentions to enter the alternative protein space with meatballs and “spicy fingers,” while coffee giant Starbucks will collaborate with Imagine Meats to offer a range of alternative protein options across the country.