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In a world where conventional animal protein sources face increasing scrutiny for their environmental footprint, alternative proteins are quickly becoming an attractive option for investors seeking to make sustainable, future-proof investments. From plant-based protein to cultivated meat and seafood, innovative startups and visionary entrepreneurs are providing an opportunity to make a dent in the global food security and environmental issues we face.
A recent report by Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon found that investments in plant-based meat alternatives generate higher CO2-equivalent savings per dollar invested than any other sector. This is a significant finding, as meat and dairy production already accounts for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector while also being major drivers for deforestation and water scarcity. With animal-based food consumption expected to rise by nearly 70% by 2050, the current system is simply not sustainable. Individuals and organizations can help reduce the food industry’s environmental footprint by investing in alternative protein while generating competitive returns.
Driving the Future of Food: Asia Takes the Lead
Asia is helping lead the charge of the alternative protein revolution thanks to a combination of advanced technology, institutional support, and rising consumer interest. Investment in the APAC region increased by 43% in 2022, with $562 million invested across plant-based (+30%), fermentation (+67%) and cultivated (+96%) proteins. Overall, the sector is expected to register a CAGR of 15.13% from 2023 to 2030, driven by consumer demand for healthier food options and concern for climate change.
While Europe and the U.S. lag behind on the approval of cultivated meat, Singapore has taken the lead as the first country to give the green light for its sale. GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken made its debut to world leaders at COP27 in Egypt, and now Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are all jumping on board with alternative protein and low-carbon diets being incorporated into their long-term economic plans. Southeast Asia is also abuzz with plant-based products as brands successfully tap into local preferences by using locally sourced ingredients and products that suit regional palates.
Southeast Asia’s Vibrant Alternative Protein Scene
Lever Foundation Growth Fund, which makes early-stage impact investments on behalf of the Asian food sustainability-focused NGO Lever Foundation, has supported promising startups in the region since 2020. It has since grown its impact investment portfolio to over 15 companies across plant-based meat and dairy, plant protein, precision and biomass fermentation, and cultivated meat. Several companies Lever has provided first funding to over the years have been able to capitalize on local ingredients and flavors. Indonesia-based company Meatless Kingdom, for example, has specialized in creating plant-based versions of staple Indonesian food, while Nanka, a Malaysian plant-based meat company, has bet on native jackfruit to make burger patties that have a meaty texture and low carbon footprint.
In Singapore, Lever supported MAD Foods, a plant-based dairy startup producing healthy and sustainable coffee drinks. Avant is another company pioneering an alternative approach to Chinese cuisine; their signature product replicates fish maw without depleting the ocean’s resources and has starred at the Feed 9 Billion gala dinner that kicked off Singapore’s Restaurant Week in September.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, iDAMA’s plant-based ice cream and frozen desserts have entered hundreds of local 7-Elevens, and the company is expanding into southern mainland China. Good Food Technologies, another plant-based meat company Lever has supported, makes products designed for Chinese culinary applications and aims to become Asia’s Impossible Foods for pork. Their secret? Aromax, a proprietary plant-based fat technology that gives the nod to the pork flavors of traditional Chinese dishes, such as dim sum.
These are just some shining examples of startups that are making waves in more ways than one, creating jobs and driving economic growth while positively impacting the planet and reducing the suffering of farm animals. Aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (particularly Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, and Responsible Consumption and Production), supporting the alternative protein sector means securing a brighter future for food security in the region.
Impact investing in alternative protein is a win-win opportunity for those who care about the future of our planet, our health, and our economy. It’s a choice that combines financial gains with meaningful social and environmental outcomes, making it a smart investment for anyone looking to make a difference in the world.
Visit Lever Foundation’s website to learn more about how alternative protein can help meet Asia’s growing protein demand while benefitting people and the planet, or get in touch with Lever’s team at [email protected].