SXSW Panel Recap: Alt. Proteins: Not Just Another Tech Revolution
Reducing our traditional protein consumption is no longer a luxury
By Jessi Devenyns,
2:32PM, Wed. Mar. 13, 2019
We see it everywhere: plant-based milk, plant-based burgers, plant-based eggs, to name a few. Who’s to say this migration to plant-based meal options is not just a passing fad?
According to venture capitalist panelists Lisa Feria of Stray Dog Capital, Dan Altschuler Malek of New Crop Capital, and Andrew Ive of Big Idea Ventures, consumers might be the biggest indicator that this trend is here to stay. “We see the conventional agricultural system as broken,” explained Feria. With 9 billion people predicted to call planet Earth home by 2050, the growth of the middle class in Asia is pushing protein consumption to new heights, and considering the fact that 80% of antibiotics are used in animal facilities, change is no longer a luxury. It is a must.
However, thanks to social media, globalization, and an increase in alternative diets like reducetarians, flexitarians, vegans, and vegetarians, panelists expressed their hope that society is headed in the right direction. This gut feeling was backed up by statistics: Millennials are 12 times more likely than baby boomers to eat plant-based products, and last year, one-third of Americans said they want to reduce their meat consumption and increase consumption of plant protein.
There is also quite a bit more money being dumped into this space. Moderator Olivia Fox Cabane presented a chart that depicted companies investing in the plant-based food space, and from January to December 2018, the numbers have exploded. She said that her current list of companies interested in the space is already out of date because she needs to update it every two weeks. Interests run the gamut from plant-based meats to cellular agriculture, and now there is even algae-based caviar and lab-grown foie gras.
One notable exception to the space is insects, which the panelists agreed did not fit into the plant-based category and was similarly too niche for them to be confident that they would earn their investment back. The one thing missing? Everyday items at a great price. According to Cabane, “The day we meet them on taste and texture and beat them on price, game over.”