While discussions about the relationship balance of traditional and new protein have been in the air for a while, the AGF-hosted Protein Innovation Webinar on March 4 brought together, for the first time ever, a four-way collaboration of China and U.S. players in both industries. It was a chance for all to exchange innovations and ideas to promote their common goals. During this this time, blended protein came into sharp focus as a key next step to a future of food sustainability.
In reality, only 1 percent of the population consumes purely plant-based food, and 90 percent stick to traditional animal protein. For this reason, in moving toward a carbon-neutral future, blended protein is the most viable solution. As a more innovative solution to the protein market, it bridges the gap of traditional and new proteins.
Win-Win Solution for Both Company and Consumer
Blended products create a win-win situation where not only the environment benefits from the less waste, emissions and pollution, but traditional meat companies benefit, too. “We help meat companies save money,” said Paul Shaprio, founder and CEO of Better Meat Co., during his speech.
Founded in 2019, Better Meat Co. aims at partnering with the animal meat business to create formulas blending plant-based protein into their traditional meat products. Their products include pork, chicken, turkey, fish and beef. By adding the plant-based protein ingredients, the meat products obtain an enhanced flavor at a lower cost.
One such product in the US is Perdue Chicken Plus, a chicken nugget that is 50% plant protein. In 2019, it was named the best-tasting frozen nugget in America. And this is not an isolated example. In today’s market, 20 percent of frozen nuggets are at least 50 percent plant-based. Blending actually improves yield, with great implications for companies’ bottom lines.
Speaking of bottoms, the health benefits of blended protein to the consumer are fantastic, too – with less saturated fat, less cholesterol, fewer calories, and more fiber. So everyone is happy.
China’s Potential in Blended Protein
Blended products not only fit well into the US market, but also have the potential to enter the burgeoning Chinese market in greater measure, said Ryan Xue, secretary-general of the China Plant Based Food Alliance. In his closing remarks, he explained that blended protein is an excellent approach to achieving the China’s goal of carbon neutrality in 2030. It furthermore aligns with the government’s holistic policy plan of 2021.
Indeed, the Chinese government has already set its next step of rolling out blended protein products for different groups of people that need more and healthier nutrition, says Wei Chen, executive vice president and secretary general of the China Meat Association. For example, they want to develop a special blended meat suited for elders, which is low in cholesterol or a blended meat suited for children, which is rich in protein. Additionally, Mr. Chen pointed out that blending is not a new concept in the Chinese meat industry; for some pork sausages in China, 70 percent of the ingredients are plant-based materials.
“Promoting green products is another goal of our work, to meet the end consumers’ needs in the market. And overall, we will center on the healthy habit of protein consumption,” he said. “Be it animal meat or plant-based meat – all have innovations to share.”
The next target will be how to produce, through technology, more protein that is good for consumers, according to Chen.
And as to the question of when traditional protein can be completely replaced by the alternative protein? That is yet to be determined by scientists and scholars around the globe. What we do know is that, for now, blended protein is the foremost solution to shrinking our carbon footprint while taking a giant leap forward into long-term food sustainability.