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How Are Plant-Based Proteins Stacking Up?

Good Food Institute releases series of State of the Industry reports
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Alt-protein companies are making inroads, according to the nonprofit GFI.

The alternative protein industry is maturing, but has room to grow to catch up with traditional animal proteins and to reach ambitious sustainability goals. That’s the conclusion of four State of the Industry reports released by the Good Food Institute (GFI).

The Washington, D.C.-based GFI, a nonprofit organization focused on innovation in the alt-protein industry, published separate reports on the state of cultivated meat, plant-based meat, dairy and eggs, fermentation and alternative seafood. In those reports, GFI highlighted business innovations, technologies and government and private policies that are propelling the momentum of plant-based industries.

Among the findings:

  • Cultivated meats continued to progress in 2021, with more funding, the development of new production facilities from companies like Future Meat and Wildtype and significant investments by traditional protein companies, including JBS. Last year also marked the first life-cycle assessment for cultivated meat using industry and government data.
  • The market for plant-based meat, eggs and dairy continues a forward push following growth in 2019 and 2020. Sales of plant-based meats topped $1.4 billion in 2021, while plant-based milk sales rose 4% to $2.6 billion and plant-based eggs experienced a 42% jump in sales to reach $39 million. Hundreds of new products were launched in the U.S., as plant-based brands expanded into different categories.
  • Fermentation technologies are propelling innovations in alternative proteins, as that sector also expanded in 2021. Advances included the founding of 15 new startups that use fermentation to produce alternative proteins and $1.69 billion in fresh investments raised by fermentation companies.
  • Last year was a robust period for alternative seafood products, as alternative seafood companies raised $175 million, almost double the amount raised in 2020. At least 18 new alt-seafood companies opened during this time, as retail sales of plant-based seafood climbed to $13.9 million.

While GFI outlined key findings for growth, the organization also emphasized opportunities, especially in the area of public investment. “Investors and governments must significantly accelerate investments in alternative proteins as a key solution that can help address the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, and major public health risks such as the rise of pandemics and antibiotic-resistant diseases,” declared Sharyn Murray, GFI’s senior investor engagement specialist. “Doubling down on the alternative protein industry will allow for the rapid scaling of production capacity and continued innovation that will equip the world with the necessary tools to protect our planet’s future.” 

Audrey Gyr, the organization’s startup innovation specialist, echoed the call for continued development. “2021 was yet another landmark year in the development of the alternative protein industry. However, innovations in taste, price, and variety are still needed to better compete with animal products,” she said.

Summaries of the four State of the Industry reports are available online.

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