Here Are The Two Craziest Ingredients In Alternative Protein This Year

Food & Drink

Alternative protein is one of the most creative and innovative industries out there. In the past year, headlines have consisted of potato milk, cultured meat, fermented dairy, 3-D printed fake meat… the list goes on.

According to global nutrition supplier Arthur Daniels Midland Company (ADM), the alternative protein market is expected to grow to $125 billion by 2030. This is as per its 2022 Alternative Protein Outlook which it released on February 8th. The Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit that advocates for a shift to more sustainable foods also listed its top trends in January. For the most part, there were no surprises, but maybe the wackier side to that is that nothing surprises me anymore.

Leticia Goncalves, president of Global Foods at ADM says that in the last 12 months, meat, cheese and dairy alternatives have more than doubled.

This is not surprising, given Waitrose’s 2022 Food & Drink Report which found that nearly 70% of those surveyed indicated that the carbon footprint of their food was important to them, while Whole Foods Market’s

latest Trend report revealed that flexitarianism or “plant-curious” diets are the biggest trend of 2022. Further to that, research firm NPD group revealed that in April 2021, shipments of alternative protein products from food service distributors to commercial restaurants rose by 60% year-over-year. Long story short— people want this stuff and they will be demanding it for a while.

“Products aimed at meeting the heightened demand for health-forward solutions that can deliver on evolving consumer taste and texture expectations will continue to come to market over the next decade,” says Goncalves.

Here are the two wackiest trends, that had me wondering— are we really that desperate?

Volcano-to-table? Wait, what?

According to ADM, alternative protein is moving beyond soybeans and peas to novel and in some cases, completely off the wall sources. Seaweed and insects, okay, okay. But volcanic ash?

The story goes that in 2009, scientist Mark Kozubal, in a NASA-backed project, discovered a microbe— a fungus to be exact— in the acidic volcanic springs of Yellowstone National Park, and as luck would have it, using a break­through fer­men­ta­tion process, his team was able to grow a com­plete pro­tein source with all 20 amino acids made with just a fraction of the land and water of traditional protein production.

Fast forward to present day… Kozubel is now chief science officer and co-founder (along with CEO Thomas Jonas) of Natures Fynd, a food-tech start-up backed by Jeff Bezos, Al Gore and Bill Gates that is using the fungus, called Fy, as the primary ingredient to create its alternative protein using a biomass fermentation process. Danone and ADM were also investors in the biotechnology company, by the way— since 2019— when it was called Sustainable Bioproducts.

Making alternative protein out of thin air

Would you like some atmospheric CO2 with some fries and ketchup on the side? Startups, such as Air Protein in Berkeley, California and Solar Foods in Finland, would respond with a wholehearted yes!

These companies are using atmospheric carbon dioxide, renewable electricity, and water to generate food and not surprisingly, this innovation also has a link to NASA. In the 1960s, NASA discovered that by metabolizing hydrogen, bacteria known as hydrogenotrophs can transform CO2 into a tasteless protein that could be made to look and taste like traditional foods. And according to the Air Protein website, Air Protein “is rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, with all 9 essential amino acids and 2x the amino acids of soybeans. It contains more protein per kg and is free from GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics.”

You read the title of this article right? Well I intend not to disappoint.

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