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More than 70+ players driving plant-based and alternative proteins

No doubt that the market of plant-based and alternative proteins is booming – so much that 2020 was a record year of investment and increase in sales of all alternative proteins. More and more people have demonstrated a willingness to rapidly embrace new foods. Different technologies are being utilized to engineer solutions to design food and drinks that are sustainable, healthy, and nutritious. In cooperation with EIT Food Central we have exclusively mapped the key players from our networks who lead us into a sustainable future – from startups to research institutes, organizations, and expert voices. What are alternative proteins? Which are the main sources of alternative proteins? Who are the players that lead this trend? Find an overview in our Market Map "Plant-based and alternative proteins - the need of the hour".

Nutrition Hub _White Paper_market map of players of plant based and alternative proteins

Photo credit: "New Traditions" mimicing a butcher's shop from Tabea Mathern ( & Yannic Moeken (

By 2050, an estimated extra 265 million tons of protein will be needed to meet the food demands of the world’s population of 10 billion, adequately, not only from a nutritional point of view but also sustainably in ways without overwhelming the planet. This can not be tackled without a transformation in the nutrition sector. Hence finding new protein sources is essential. According to European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy, “Alternative proteins are identified as a key to the transition to a sustainable food system”.

Alternative proteins - the rising star

Alternative proteins have morphed in just the past few years from a niche product to a mainstream phenomenon. In 2020, $3.1 bil­lion was invested in the alter­na­tive pro­tein indus­try and is expected to grow to $27.1 billion by 2027 globally, whereas, sales of plant-based foods in the U.S grew by 27% in 2020. Alternative protein market research shows the change in food habits and consumption comes from various factors. These include consumers consciously working towards sustainability, personal health, promotion of animal welfare, and increased willingness to explore new foods. From plant-based, cultivated meat, fermentation-derived proteins to upcycling side streams or newer ingredients like microalgae or insects, we are leading the way in developing sustainable alternatives.

The four main alternative sources of proteins:

  1. Plant-based proteins: According to the Plant-based food Association, plant-based proteins are a food source of protein that is derived from plants such as pulses, legumes, and other protein-rich plants without any involvement of animals.

  2. Cell-based proteins: These are made by extracting stem cells from an animal, growing them in nutrient-rich conditions, and structuring them using bioreactors into desired shapes. (source: Nature, 2020).

  3. Fermentation derived proteins: According to Good Food Institute, they are based on the process of using microbes such as microalgae, mycoprotein, and fungi to produce protein biomass and improve plant proteins.

  4. Insect-based proteins: As Insect proteins are sustainable and high in protein, fiber, and minerals (source: FAO, 2021), the insect species are used whole or as an ingredient in processed food products and have been approved as novel foods by the European Food Safety Authority in 2021.

The future of our plan­et depends on the future of our food sys­tem. It’s excit­ing that new alter­na­tive sources of pro­tein are emerg­ing as they are cru­cial to nour­ish­ing our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion while mit­i­gat­ing the effects of the cli­mate cri­sis. According to BCG and Blue Horizon report, “Every tenth portion of protein is very likely to be alternative by 2035”.

Market Map "Plant-based and alternative proteins - the need of the hour"

In this market map you will get to know:

  • The importance of plant-based nutrition shifts with the rise of alternative proteins at the epicenter of the solution.

  • What are the 4 main alternative protein sources and how do they drive change?

  • What are the opportunities and challenges?

  • Who are the key players from startups, research institutes, organizations, projects, and expert voices supporting these 4 main alternative proteins sources?

  • What is next for the future of alternative proteins?

Download the Market Map "Plant-based and alternative proteins - the need of the hour" here.

2021_NUTRITION HUB_EITFood_MarketMap_Plantbased Alternatives - The Need Of The Hour.pdf
Download PD • 950KB

What we see today is only the beginning of the protein transformation. We know there are many more players out there advancing in plant-based and alternative proteins. Feel free to share your favorite startup, expert voices, pioneers, and leaders on this topic with us by mail:


This article was written by Bhargavi Arvind, Editor at NUTRITION HUB.

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