Canada’s potential grows with the demand for meat alternatives

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As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for protein. While protein sources of all types are expected to experience increased demand, those that provide alternatives to meat will see a particularly sharp rise.

According to a report recently written by Ernst and Young and commissioned by Protein Industries Canada, the global market for meat alternatives is expected to rise to between CDN$107 billion and CDN$180 billion by the year 2035. The majority of this demand is expected to be comprised of plant-based foods and ingredients. Much of these foods and ingredients will be made from crops grown, and potentially processed, here in Canada, particularly pea, canola, oat and pulses.

“It looks very promising for the crops that we produce at scale here in Western Canada,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “Consumers want choice, and these diverse sets of plant-based ingredients that we can create from the crops we produce in Western Canada give that choice.”

The Ernst and Young report estimates global demand for crops used in meat-alternative products could grow to anywhere between 41 million and 66 million metric tonnes by 2035. Because of Canada’s strong agriculture footing, Greuel expects the country could meet approximately 10 per cent of the overall plant-based foods market, including alternatives to dairy, eggs and seafood.

“If we look at what the overall size of what the plant-based foods market will be by 2035, we think that that’s going to be about a $200 billion market,” Greuel said. “We think it’s reasonable that Canada can achieve 10 per cent of that overall global market share, so $20 billion in annual sales. Just for context setting, today Canada is about 3.3 per cent of the global agrifood market. So we think we can punch well above our weight.”

Fulfilling this potential will take some strategic work over the next 15 years. Already Canada’s plant-based food sector and its supporters have begun investing in the area, through increased processing, research into new crop types and higher protein varieties, and development of new on-farm technologies.

While this puts us on a good base moving forward, Greuel believes there’s plenty more to do. He said other countries will also be investing significant resources into their plant-based food and ingredient sectors over the next five to seven years, and that some of those countries are starting out with sectors already competitive with Canada’s.

Their reason for investing is the same as ours: The plant-based meat-alternative market isn’t going to disappear. It’s a lifestyle built not only on population growth, but also the growing consumer desire to balance convenience with protecting the environment, maintaining human health and protecting animal welfare.

“I view these as underpinning market forces—not fads, not trends,” Greuel said. “These are long-term, sustainable forces that are going to drive the growth.”

There’s a lot for Canada to consider when it comes to its future role in plant-based food and ingredients, starting with the value it can add to the global market, how the country compares to others and what steps it needs to make moving forward. Join Protein Industries Canada over the next few weeks as we dive into these topics, with insights from Greuel and the Ernst and Young Report.