Knowledge for better food systems

Investors call for new business outlook on protein sourcing: more plants, less meat

A group of investors, worth $1.25 trillion, has contributed to a report calling for food companies to change the way in which they include protein in their products to reduce environmental risk. The FAIRR initiative’s report – The Future of Food: The Investment Case for a Protein Shake Up – argues that forward-looking investors and businesses should act now to help shape a new market in sustainable protein, with less of this macronutrient coming from animals, and more from plants (and perhaps from insects and algae).

Not only do they present such a protein transition as being a necessary response to long term financial risk to business due to e.g. climate change, they also make a convincing claim that many consumers are ready for a change and profit is to be made by moving ahead. They write:

‘Market analysts acknowledge that increasingly consumers are making the link between food and health and researchers estimate that demand for meat substitutes – products prepared from tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, seitan, quorn and other plant based sources – will grow by 8.4% annually over the next five years. Other studies predict that alternative proteins could constitute a third of the total protein market by mid-century.’

The 40 institutional investors, which include Swedish state pension funds, Aviva Investors, Boston Common, Coller Capital, Folksam, Nordea and Robeco, are also writing directly to 16 multinational food companies to highlight the risks and urge them to change their strategies in this area.

To read the full report, see here (pdf). Coverage of the story, including additional information on responses by some food companies, can be found here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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