Alternative proteins research published

B+LNZ has just released an extensive report on alternative proteins and its implications for the red meat sector.
Friday, 2 March 2018

Download the full Alternative Proteins report
Download the Summary Report

We commissioned the study to better understand the shifts in food, food production technology and consumer trends and distinguish the hype from reality.

The report shows alternative proteins are likely to become a major competitor to some of New Zealand’s red meat products and the sector must respond with a clear strategy.

It found that although alternative proteins are currently manufactured in small volumes, large scale production of burger patties and mince is likely to be a reality within five years. 

The research concludes that a number of forces are coming together that are driving governments, investors and consumers to looks for alternatives to red meat. These include environmental concerns relating to climate change and the ability to feed the growing world population in a sustainable way; the use of animals in food production; and the place of meat in a modern diet.

Despite these challenges, the research demonstrates there is still a strong future for the New Zealand red meat sector. The report reveals an untapped demand for naturally raised, grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free red meat with consumers prepared to pay a premium for such products.

The same forces driving the significant investment and demand for manufacturing alternative proteins, including concerns about industrial farming, health and the environment, offer us a chance to differentiate New Zealand red meat internationally.

It’s vital we leverage our competitive advantage and rigorously protect it -  grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free natural protein - to capture higher premiums and raise the value of our exports.

In the US alone, retail sales of labelled fresh grass-fed beef including domestic and imports reached US$272 million in 2016, up from US$17 million in 2012. Sales are doubling every year.

Yes, we do have some way to go. A significant proportion of our red meat is not currently commanding a premium compared to competitors in a number of global markets, and there is low consumer awareness of New Zealand’s natural farming systems.

That’s why the action that B+LNZ and the sector has taken to develop and activate the global origin brand and red meat story and develop a National Farm Assurance Programme is so important.

New Zealand is in a prime position to take advantage of the unprecedented global demand for quality protein.

The global population is swelling with a forecast one billion extra people to feed by 2030.  New Zealand’s total agricultural production can only feed about 40 million people.  We can’t and don’t want to try to feed the world.   Alternative proteins will have a place in this growing market, as will red meat.

The sector is also continuing to improve its environmental performance, which is important to ensure a prosperous future for sheep and beef farmers.

Agriculture has an environmental impact and we are working to minimise this. We’ve made tremendous headway as the carbon emissions from sheep and beef farming are actually 19 percent lower than 1990 levels.  Latest B+LNZ research also shows that we have 24% of NZ’s indigenous bush on our sheep and beef farms.

According to the study, New Zealand’s beef exports face the greatest challenge from alternative proteins, particularly to the United States.

Currently, the US takes 50 percent of New Zealand’s beef exports and a large proportion of this goes into burger manufacturing. The development of alternative protein beef muscle cuts is much further behind and sheepmeat is not yet being explored.

The report identifies seven emerging ‘forces’ that make it increasingly likely alternative proteins will gain traction in the future.  However, a range of counter forces such as an economic slowdown stifling investment, or regulatory barriers, may also hinder the progress of alternative proteins.

It includes four scenarios and potential strategic responses aimed at challenging the red meat sector’s thinking and helping it to consider how to respond to these challenges.   These scenarios range from red meat being pushed to the side of the plate or becoming a speciality, a reluctant choice or the everyday preferred choice for consumers. 

We now have a better understanding of the technologies, business models and consumer trends and how quickly advancements are being made that could impact the New Zealand red meat sector.

Far from it being a crisis for red meat, we see these trends as a tremendous opportunity and we want to focus on raising the value of our exports and on gaining higher premiums. 

There is a window of opportunity to position ourselves globally as leaders in that naturally raised grass-fed space, and we must grab it with two hands.

We will be discussing the report’s findings with you over the coming months to determine what actions industry needs to take and B +LNZ’s role in that.

A copy of the summary & report are available below.