Asia’s Ready: Alternative Proteins Are The Future, Say Industry Leaders

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Rethink Agri-food Innovation Week premiered in Singapore November 27-29 2018 with the goal of going deep on technology’s role in addressing the most pressing food issues of our time, including meeting the growing global demand for protein, with a focus on exploring the role of alternatives such as plant proteins and cellular agriculture, in Asia in particular.  

Summit speakers included industry heavyweights such as Josh Tetrick, Founder & CEO of JUST (ahead of their 2019 China launch), Elaine Siu, Managing Director for Asia Pacific at The Good Food Institute (GFI) and Joseph Zhou, Investment Partner at China-based food accelerator & investment platform Bits & Bites. 

As part of the summit, the organizers polled their audience of senior industry leaders on various topics surrounding the future of agri-food innovation. Below we showcase the survey response highlights.

Blockchain is NOT The Favorite

When asked what type of technology held the greatest potential to transform agriculture in Southeast Asia, genetic engineering (32%) & robotics/automation (27%) were highly favoured over blockchain (11%) and drones (0%). 

It’s All About The Money, Money, Money

Finance is widely considered to be the biggest obstacle when it comes to technology adoption by farmers across Southeast Asia. 51% agreed farmers need better access to capital, while 29% felt education was an issue. Only 12% thought policy was a problem. 

No One Thinks Beef is The Answer

44% thought plant-based alternatives such as soy, pea, mushrooms would become the main protein source of the future, particularly in response to the growing demand for protein in the world’s most populous countries. No one thought beef or pork would fit the bill, though a little more than a third believe fish could. 

Pricing Parity is A Must

For plant-based ‘meat’ to become the norm, price parity with conventional meat is a key factor for success. An encouraging 59% of respondents are willing to eat plant alternatives on a regular basis if pricing was equivalent to animal foods. Only 17% stated they would never choose plant-based over conventional meat.

Cell-Based Meat is A-OK

More than half of the surveyed population is willing to give cultured /cell-based meat a go- in fact, over 90% is willing to consume it on a regular basis. As with plant alternatives, price is an issue. Only 16% are ok with price premiums of over 50%.

It’s Hard To Get Big

Low consumer awareness / acceptance of alternative proteins was seen as an obstacle by a quarter of survey respondents but on the industry side, 61% identified difficulty scaling up and high production costs as the biggest challenge for alternative protein companies. Only 6% thought lack of funding was an issue, underlining the widely held view that Asia has plenty of funding floating around. 

Overall, Rethink Agri-Food’s survey results make the case for a bright future in Asia for plant & cell-based animal protein alternatives, consumers are ready for it conceptually. However, prices need to come down, which means manufacturers need to scale up, and fast. 

Lead image by JUST.


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    Serial social entrepreneur Sonalie Figueiras is the founder & editor-in-chief of Green Queen, an award-winning impact media platform advocating for social & environmental change in Hong Kong with a mission to shift consumer behaviour through inspiring & empowering original content. She is also the founder & CEO of SourceGreenPackaging,com, the global wholesale eCom marketplace for sustainable packaging products, Ekowarehouse, the global sourcing platform for certified organic products, with a mission to make safe, quality food accessible & affordable for the whole planet. With over a decade of experience in publishing, digital marketing, organic trade and health & sustainability, she is an eco wellness industry veteran with a keen eye for market trends and a sought-after international speaker and moderator, sharing her expertise on stages across Asia and beyond, including TEDx and Harvard Business School.

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