Takeaway messages:

  • Scaling up meat alternatives is necessary as demand grows in -Pacific.
  • Both the transition and approaches for traditional meat-based protein rely heavily on .
  • The protein transition can be effectively facilitated by public-private partnerships.

Introduction to the future of sustainable protein in Asia-Pacific

One of the most active and disruptive movements in food innovation worldwide is the shift to plant-based meat replacements. As demand for protein in Asia-Pacific (APAC) keeps on rising. There are some critical steps to take in the immediate and near future that would benefit farmers, consumers, and our planet.

Sustainable protein sector

The key potential for the rise in demand for proteins in APAC is enabling investment for innovation, research, and business models for a sustainable protein sector. The sustainable intensification of the existing protein sector, the of new or additional proteins, and in consumer behavior are only a few aspects that innovation unlocked. Nevertheless, there is no universally applicable solution. To satisfy the various needs from nation to nation and the preferences of consumers throughout the area, different approaches would be required.

Furthermore, partnerships have the power to speed up the protein transition. Cooperation between the government, the commercial sector, farmers, financial institutions, and research organizations can promote innovation and build a strong ecosystem. Thus, it can lead to new solutions. 

Nonetheless, it is essential to take into account the complexity of the obstacles encountered. This entails dealing with environmental issues, enhancing resource efficiency, cutting GHG emissions, maintaining food safety and , and satisfying the nutritional needs of a diverse population. Therefore, the essential transformation cannot be achieved through innovation alone. A holistic approach is required, one that takes into account changes in consumer behavior, frameworks, and investment in addition to technological improvements.

Drivers that contribute to the shift to a sustainable protein ecosystem

The growing demand for animal proteins is being fueled by rising income levels and urbanization. This trend has been seen, among other places, in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China. Imports and domestic have to collaborate to meet this demand. Additionally, this will have negative effects. For instance, increased feed imports, an increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as well as health costs due to an increase in red meat intake. Lastly, it will have an impact on natural resources.

With the largest population in the world concentrated in APAC, there is a need to produce food with fewer resources to address issues such as food , supply chain resilience, and sustainability. Therefore, health and are two of the main factors influencing the shift in the protein ecosystem. 

Additional factors promoting protein transitions include the pressure from conscious consumers, , and the shortage of both land and . Thus, transforming the food system in the APAC region is a necessity.

The Food Security situation in APAC

The article estimates that by 2030, APAC's population will grow by 14%, from 4.3 billion to 4.9 billion. But the average crop yields for agriculture around the world may decline by 4% as a result of climate change. Therefore, there is less food for the expanding population due to a decrease in productivity. Furthermore, reduced production will also result in 8.1% price increases for all crops and 5.1% price increases for all meat products, thus exacerbating food insecurity.

Asia contains 55% of the world's undernourished population or 424.5 million individuals. Three-fourths of the population of Southern Asia suffers from moderate or severe food insecurity. There is no reliable access to affordable, nutritionally-balanced food to support health and growth. 

Innovators are attempting to resolve this issue on a variety of levels. Firstly, they focus on making crops and animal farming more efficient and climate-resilient. Furthermore, they are developing alternative protein production methods. For instance fermentation, algae-based proteins, insect-based , and cell-cultivated meat. 

Moreover, governments encourage innovation and increase the availability of environmentally beneficial and nutritious options by fostering favorable conditions. Public support is changing in favor of promoting the development of healthy and sustainable foods. Supporting whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and other plant-based alternatives is one way to supply the demand for protein while reducing the impact on the environment.

Protein transition

The article states: ”Designing the right policies to unlock the flow of investments for a protein transition is imperative. ” 

The transition to proteins involves innovation, conception, commercialization, and awareness-raising. Consumers should be informed of the effects of unsustainable and unhealthy diets, and the government should change its policies and provide incentives to the private sector. Researchers should conduct independent studies to evaluate policies, partnerships, and the impact of different supply options (local versus , modern versus regenerative (circular), large versus small) and consumption patterns.

Digitalization

‘Digitalization of the food supply chain improves transparency and encourages youth participation'

Cherrie de Erit Atilano, Founding Farmer/President & CEO, Agricultural System

The novel protein sector lacks readily accessible current contract manufacturing companies because of the new technologies and production processes. Prior to commercializing their ideas, the majority of start-ups face significant challenges. They need at least two to three years to design and construct the pilot production plant. Thus, big players in the market that have strategic interests in emerging technology can work together to offer answers.

Furthermore, the pandemic has resulted in positive adjustments to the food system, such as sourcing food locally, strengthening supply chains, and encouraging local production. Food security is a priority for the government and the private sector, but smallholder support requires more attention. 

In the Asian Pacific area, the protein supply chain is very dispersed. The top five companies, for instance, hold less than 5% of the market share for edible meats, with family-run operations, small businesses, or regional chains accounting for the majority of sales. Fragmentation significantly hinders the formation of partnerships with farmers. Additionally, the majority of small household farmers have little spare time and money, which results in poor interest in and capacity for collaborative invention and interdisciplinary exploration.

Source:

B. Bertaccini, 2023, What is the future for sustainable protein in Asia-Pacific? Three expert leaders share their views. Online available: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/06/protein-transition-asia-pacific/

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