New Food Frontiers


The Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit think tank and international network of organizations, sees alternative proteins as an essential solution to meet the world’s climate, global health, food security and biodiversity goals. We spoke with Bruce Friedrich, President and Founder, and Carlotte Lucas, Corporate Engagement Manager, about how GFI is advancing alternative proteins, how new players are making an impact and what needs to happen for alternative proteins to fulfill their potential.

Oat field
What are the most promising developments in the alternative protein sector?
Bruce Friedrich (BF): A few come to mind. We’re seeing significant developments and momentum in the areas of science, innovation, talent and public and private sector support. We’re also seeing increased acknowledgement of alternative proteins as a climate and food security solution, with governments around the world taking note and beginning to act. 

On the science and innovation front, advances in alt protein crop development, precision fermentation and cultivated meat technologies, to name a few, are happening fast, as more researchers and funding flow into the field. It’s especially exciting to see new scientists from a diversity of disciplines, and at different points in their careers, jumping into alt protein research. At universities worldwide, new courses and even dedicated degree programs are being launched. Just this year, GFI’s Alt Protein Project – a student-driven program aimed at turning universities into engines of alternative protein progress and innovation – is set to double to 32 universities across six continents. 

In terms of public sector, we’re seeing governments around the world recognizing the advantages of alternative proteins and investing in them to meet national policy goals and create good-paying, sustainable jobs. Only five years ago, public funding for alternative protein R&D was close to zero. Today, the total exceeds US$300 million from more than a dozen countries, plus additional hundreds of millions of dollars in government investments in and incentives for alternative protein companies. 

As more talent and significantly more funding flow into alternative proteins, the entire sector will pick up steam, offering the world a fundamentally different and far more sustainable food future.
Where do you see the key challenges moving forward?
Carlotte Lucas (CL): Ultimately, if alternative proteins are to fulfill their potential of reducing emissions and contributing to a more sustainable food system, they need to become as tasty, affordable and accessible as conventional meat. 

For plant-based meat, one of the key challenges is to develop "whole cut" products that deliver the taste and texture of steak, chicken breast, and fish filets, as opposed to the burgers, sausages and minced products that have dominated the market so far. And developing animal-free fat alternatives will be crucial to delivering the flavor and mouthfeel of conventionally produced meat.

GFI’s own research has shown that, if plant-based meat is to make up 6 percent of the global meat market by 2030, governments and the food industry must make significant investments along the entire supply chain. Research to develop protein-rich crop varieties, the construction of 800 or more largescale production facilities, and greater ingredient processing capacity will all be essential to meet demand. 

As far as cultivated meat is concerned, we’ve already seen some encouraging signs of interest from large companies in this space. But to scale up the production of cultivated meat and bring down prices, we need to see governments and companies invest far more in open-access research and infrastructure. This will be essential in every step of the process – from improving the scaffolding used to create the complex fibrous texture similar to that of conventional meat, to building larger fermenters in which the cells can grow.
Bruce Friedrich

Bruce Friedrich, Founder and President, The Good Food Institute

Based in Washington, D.C., Bruce serves as GFI’s chief thought leader and relationship-builder, working in close partnership with GFI’s global teams and food system stakeholders around the world.
Carlotte Lucas

Carlotte Lucas, Corporate Engagement Manager, The Good Food Institute Europe

Based in Amsterdam, Carlotte connects with companies and investors across Europe to encourage investment, catalyze innovation and support the sector’s shift towards sustainable proteins.
How can the Good Food Institute help overcome these challenges?
BF: As a nonprofit, GFI can accelerate alternative protein market growth in ways that support and catalyze the entire field. While many innovators seek proprietary solutions to the same set of problems, our research, data and insights are open-access and support the advancement of the entire alternative protein space – around the world, across supply chains and across public and private sectors. 

GFI channels funding toward the highest-impact research projects that address key knowledge gaps and technical challenges. We also publish tools, databases, reports and analyses that serve as the research foundation for the field. We bring together scientists to forge partnerships, develop and grow a thriving research community and cultivate new talent. Our alt protein webinars and workshops help both scientists and entrepreneurs across the field connect with each other, inspire each other and collaborate on solutions that would be impossible to tackle alone. We offer expertise and resources to governments around the world working to achieve climate, food security, biodiversity and global health goals. Our focus here is on regional approaches to policy-shaping that are grounded in regional assets and strengths (e.g., indigenous crops) as well as economic development and equitable job creation. We also share data and insights on how different countries are navigating and developing regulatory frameworks, and publish global and regional state-of-the-industry reports that highlight replicable successes.
Are consumers around the world ready for plant-based meat and particularly for cultivated meat?

CL: They are certainly ready for plant-based meat. We know from our latest state-of-the industry report that global sales were up 17 percent (to US$5.6 billion) in 2021 – a huge increase over the previous year. 

Our recent Good Food Institute Europe survey found that half of Spaniards and Italians already eat plant-based meat on a monthly basis, and that one in four Germans plan to increase their plant-based meat consumption. The survey also revealed a growing awareness of cultivated meat. Fully 65 percent of Spaniards, 55 percent of Italians, 57 percent of Germans and a third of French consumers said they’d be willing to buy it when it comes on the market. Many also believe that governments should support this new way of making meat. This attitude reflected another recent study showing that 80 percent of UK and U.S. consumers were open to eating cultivated meat. 

Ultimately, people want sustainable options – but they don’t want to compromise on taste, price or convenience. Government support for R&D and infrastructure will allow these more sustainable foods to compete with conventional meat on those measures, and eventually become the default choice.

"Alternative proteins – specifically plant-based and cultivated meat – can help write the next chapter for agriculture."

Bruce Friedrich
President and Founder, The Good Food Institute (GFI)

Are there any significant differences in attitudes and opinion across regions?

CL: We actually see a fair amount of consistency across regions. Our consumer survey for Europe revealed broad willingness to buy cultivated meat across the region and this is echoed by several recent academic studies. There has been similarly broad support for another important sustainable protein technology – precision fermentation – which uses organisms such as yeast to produce genuine egg or dairy proteins, along with other ingredients that deliver the familiar flavors and textures of foods like cheese and milk, without using animals. 

One study found very high levels of acceptance, with 78 percent of consumers from a wide range of countries – Brazil, Germany, India, the UK and the U.S. – willing to try animal-free dairy cheese, and 70 percent willing to buy it. 

We also see that consumers in other parts of the world consistently identify taste and texture as key drivers of acceptance moving forward. A 2021 study commissioned by the Good Food Institute Asia Pacific looked at the attitudes of consumers in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Taste was either extremely or somewhat important for 79 percent of consumers, while texture was either extremely or somewhat important for 72 percent across all four countries when it came to determining whether they would buy alternative seafood. 

Across the world, there is a growing understanding of the importance of finding alternatives to animal agriculture, and huge opportunities for companies who get involved in this space.

Looking ahead, how can key stakeholder groups contribute most effectively to help alternative proteins realize their potential?

BF: I really appreciate this question. Success requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and with every year between now and 2030, the stakes get higher. With demand for meat projected to double by 2050, we need less resource-intensive methods of protein production that are resilient enough to withstand the increasing pressures of supply chain disruption, global conflict and climate change.

Alternative proteins can satisfy growing demand, reduce pressure on the planet and enable sustainable agriculture. Alongside other advances and innovations in food and farming policies and practices, alternative proteins – specifically plant-based and cultivated meat – can help write the next chapter for agriculture in the U.S. and around the world. Everyone has a role to play.

The world’s governments can lead by funding critical R&D to advance the science and scaling of alternative proteins, and by leveling the playing field to allow alternatives to compete on taste, price and convenience. Unlocking public funding and pursuing multilateral research and development partnerships can address the industry’s biggest technical challenges, create new opportunities for growth and ensure these sustainable foods can benefit everyone. Governments can also embed alternative proteins in national climate change plans and national economic development plans. Investment tax credits, loan guarantees, demonstration projects and other forms of financial support from governments have catalyzed explosive growth in the renewable energy and electric vehicle sectors and can stimulate similar progress for sustainable protein infrastructure.

Companies can play a leading role by delivering tasty, affordable alternative protein products to mainstream consumers. This represents a significant market opportunity given the growing demand among consumers, who are increasingly concerned about the global impacts of conventional meat. Leaning into alternative proteins also enables companies to meet their environmental, social and corporate governance goals.

Farmers can play a key role if regulations and infrastructure evolve to incentivize and accelerate the transition from feed crops to food crops. Together, we can advocate transition focused policies that ease and accelerate the shift from animal farming to sustainable protein production in ways that revitalize rural economies. 

The world’s leading NGOs can contribute by recognizing and prioritizing the fact that alt proteins can free up massive amounts of land and water for restoration and recovery. As agriculture today is the biggest driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss, it’s also our greatest opportunity to change course. A shift to alternative proteins can play a key role in agriculture’s regenerative future; and they add much-needed diversity and resilience to our food system in ways that also lessen global health risks. 

"People want sustainable options – but they don’t want to compromise on taste, price or convenience."

Carlotte Lucas
Corporate Engagement Manager, The Good Food Institute Europe (GFI)

And finally, what are the key milestones for the sector moving forward?

BF: Two come to mind: 5 percent market share and billions in government support and incentives. 

Alternative proteins reaching 5 percent market share is a critical target for the industry. Just this year, the U.S., Europe and China all reached that same 5 percent tipping point with electric vehicle sales. When new technologies hit a tipping point threshold, that signals the start of mass adoption, moving innovations from alternative to mainstream. There’s no doubt that getting there will require alt protein meals that reach parity with conventionally made meat in both taste and price. 

Securing billions, not just millions, in government funding for alternative protein R&D is another key milestone. Virtually every game changing innovation in the past century has relied on government support in its early days – the internet, GPS, touchscreens, mobile phones, electric vehicles. And while government funding has increased dramatically in the last several years, alternative proteins will require far greater government support for R&D into production and scaling to reach mass adoption. It is estimated that US$10 billion per year in global public spending on R&D and commercialization is needed to unlock the full potential of alternative proteins. This level of support is certainly more commensurate with the impact of food and agricultural emissions globally.

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