Alternative Proteins | CoBank Knowledge Exchange Brief

You’d be hard pressed today to open any
food and ag industry magazine without seeing at least one article on the growing alternative
protein market. And this has been the case for the last 2 and a half years when some
of the biggest names in U.S. meat and poultry invested millions in alternative protein startups.
What is interesting now is the broad consumer availability of alternative proteins and the new players entering
the industry. Many traditional meat producers viewed the
alternative protein space as more science fiction than science fact. And while these
two groups will probably never agree on what to call these new products, what is clear
is that these vegetable based products have shown up on grocery store shelves and restaurant
menu’s far faster than we would have ever expected. From CoBank’s office south of Denver, there
are nearly a dozen restaurants that offer a vegetable based burger within a 5 minute
drive. And that isn’t just true for Denver; Burger King announced recently that it is making their Impossible Whopper available nationwide by the end of the year. So we know
the momentum of these products doesn’t seem to be losing steam any time soon. The second recent development is the entry
of a few new players to the alternative protein scene. What makes these entrants especially
interesting is that they are some of the biggest producers of beef, pork and chicken in the
country. Additionally, these companies are shifting their interest from observers or
investors to actual producers. The vegetable based burger category is still small relative
to the traditional ground beef market. But it is growing very quickly and the entrance
of these new players with their scale and experience in delivering meat products to
grocery stores and restaurants for decades will surely make the space more competitive
and more interesting. We don’t expect this to be the last time
we explore the developments in the alternative protein market. But what is clear is that
the alternative protein industry that we once thought would stay just over the horizon has
now become a true alternative to the traditional animal protein sector.

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