Chefs Aren’t Just Ready for Alternative Protein, They’re Leading the Shift: Survey
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A new survey shows chefs around the world are embracing alternative proteins at a rapid pace and with optimism about the changing landscape.
Despite US alternative protein retail sales last year dipping for a number of brands including category leader Beyond Meat, experts still predict big things for the category. At the front lines of the shift, chefs are embracing plant-based alternatives and many are pledging to bring cultivated protein to menus once approved.
German food and beverage-focused GEA Group recently polled 1,000 chefs from 11 countries including Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, UK and the U.S. about the changes to the protein category. According to the survey, 90 percent of chefs said they’ve seen a growing interest in alternatives from their patrons, with more than 40 percent saying that interest is increasing.
“Considering that chefs not only earn their living via food but, in many cases, define themselves in terms of their devotion to food and culinary traditions, one might expect a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to alternative proteins,” reads the report. But, GEA says that while its survey did uncover some skepticism, “these were decidedly in the minority.”
“In fact,” reads the report, “the large majority of chefs surveyed are familiar with the various types of alternative proteins and already using them in their kitchens.”
Only two percent of chefs surveyed said they had “never heard” of plant-based food, while six percent said they had no real knowledge of the alternatives. But an overwhelming 92 percent said they were familiar with plant-based foods and beverages, and a majority (63 percent) said that they know a lot about them.
Cultivated meat, which is only currently approved for sale and consumption in Singapore, also showed surprising levels of awareness among the chefs despite its lack of availability. Eighty percent of the chefs said they were familiar with cultivated meat, with 41 percent claiming to know a lot about the tech.
Nearly 25 percent of the chefs surveyed said they expect new foods including protein and dairy successors to constitute more than 50 percent of all food by 2040, with An additional 43 percent of respondents saying 25 percent to 50 percent of all food by 2040 will be made up of alternatives and new tech.
According to the findings, that shift is well underway with 90 percent of chefs saying they’re already using some forms of protein and dairy successors, with more than 33 percent using them at high frequencies. While egg and seafood alternatives are the lowest on their radar, 30 percent of chefs said they’re using them at high levels.
Making the transition
“If there is one message to take from the survey, it’s that most chefs around the world are definitely not waiting around; they have begun making the transition to new foods,” reads the report.
The findings mirror other research that shows demand is increasing among consumers. A 2022 Boston Consulting Group survey found more than 50 percent of consumers use alternative proteins occasionally and 35 percent use them frequently, with 13 percent identifying as “exclusive or near-exclusive” users.
The shift is especially strong in Europe, with a 2022 survey from The Good Food Institute finding 50 percent of consumers in Spain and Italy are eating plant-based meat monthly.
GEA’s survey found chefs feel the responsibility of food choices; 75 percent said they consider it a very important factor in human health and 62 percent consider it very important for the health of the planet. A growing number of chefs are reducing their own meat consumption, the survey finds. Thirty-three percent say they’re reducing their own meat intake and 15 percent identified as vegan or vegetarian. Further, 96 percent of the chefs surveyed said their restaurants are working to reduce their environmental footprints, with 44 percent working to “a great extent” on the issue.
“The overall level of interest among chefs in using alternative proteins reinforces a growing body of data that tells us the following: new food is not just a possibility,” reads the report, “but the emerging new reality.”