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Yes, this Whole COVID Thing Does Have a (Plant-Based) Good Side 🌱

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
September 7, 2020

It’s Monday again, fellow nerds — and a big Happy Labor Day to my U.S. & Canada readers! 🎆 🌞 In this week’s news roundup, we’re looking at how consumer sentiment around diet, lifestyle and health is driving food trends. 🏃🏻‍♂️🍔

No matter where you are on the spectrum, it’s an interesting time to be a foodie. Or just a person who eats. 🍴 So grab your napkin, and let’s take a spin around the latest news.

COVID-19’s Good “Side Effect:” Consumers Are More Focused on Health

If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us as a society, it’s that we’re just plain not taking care of ourselves. 🤒 But that appears to be changing. Functional foods are gaining popularity as consumers start to make more connections between what they eat and how they feel.

Popping a handful of supplements before rushing out the door to pick up coffee and egg croissant sandwiches 🥐 at the drive-through isn’t cutting it any more for those who want better health. What are people looking for now?

  • Immune boosters 🦠
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics and fermented foods
  • High-quality, sustainable proteins 💪🏻

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the desire to be healthy and stay healthy is directing more consumers toward plant-based products.

The Plant-Based Crowd is Healthier…Or Are They?

More than 60% of respondents in a poll conducted by Eat Just, Inc. — makers of JUST Egg 🍳 — reported moving toward more plant-based diets. Sixty-two percent had already started buying plant-based products “frequently.” Overall, the poll’s 2,000 participants think all of society will be plant-based by 2032. 🌿🥗That’s a pretty bold assertion, and one that should make plant-based brands stand up and take notice.

It’s also important to note the strong belief that “plant-based” automatically equates with “healthy,” “environmentally friendly” or both — even when this isn’t the case. While a lot of consumers are simply looking for alternatives to animal products, 🍖🥩 many are also concerned about how food affects their overall health.

The ability to deliver on taste and health benefits may be the deciding factor in who comes out on top in the alt protein sector. 🏃🏻♂️🥗

As Summer Cools Down, Plant-Based Seafood Heats Up

As of 2019, plant-based seafood made up a tiny portion of the overall market for alt meat — just 1%! But 2020 is telling a different story. Companies like Good Catch, the Plant-Based Seafood Co. and even Néstle are getting into the game with fish-free fish. 🐟The latest developments? A possible 2021 re-launch of Ocean Hugger — which was forced to shut down operations when COVID-19 lockdowns slammed the foodservice industry — and the first plant-based raw tuna 🍥🍣 from SF-based startup Kuleana.Not to be outdone, cell-based 🧬 protein startups are also moving into the space. BlueNalu is using its $25 million in funding to push into the alt seafood market with cultivated mahi-mahi, citing sustainability as a driving factor.

New Proteins Emerge from Thin Air — Literally

No, this isn’t a reversal of Louis Pasteur’s debunking the theory of spontaneous generation — but neither is it some bizarre sci-fi story. 🛸 There really are companies generating protein from air. Startups like Air Protein and Solar Foods are working on processes to take the natural elements in air 💨 and turn them into viable protein ingredients. With little or no flavor, these “air-based proteins” can be mixed into just about any type of food or food product.

Doing so, according to Solar Foods, makes it possible to turn even the most mundane meal into a rich source of nutrients.

It will be a while before these airy 🌬proteins make their way into the general food supply. At the moment, Solar Foods is looking at a date of 2022 to open their new factory 🏭 and begin significant commercial production of food products containing their protein ingredient, Solein.

Another mind-blowing week! It’s astonishing the kinds of innovations🧪🦠🧬 going on right under our noses while we’re minding our own business, living our daily lives. And it’s even more exciting for the innovators!

Where are you in this journey? Are you just starting to dabble in plant-based products, or are you ready for the new wave of air proteins? 🧐🤔

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