The Evolving Role of Plant-Based and Alternative Proteins
As a recent guest on a podcast hosted by Food Engineering’s Wayne Labs, Tyler Cundiff, president of Gray’s Food & Beverage group, discussed the business challenges of an economic downturn, the rise of vertical farming and controlled environment facilities, and the expanding role of alternative proteins and cultured meats across the industry.
The growth of the alternative protein market segment over the last several years has been nothing short of extraordinary. This segment has gone from a small lifestyle niche to a global movement with rapidly expanding consumer acceptance. Price disparity has historically been an issue, but current economic conditions have reduced this gap as meat has become more expensive. Rising costs from traditional meat suppliers have helped drive companies toward greater capital investment in cultured meats.
Consumer reluctance for “lab-grown meat” may be diminishing, but the risks and unknowns remain for food processors. While plant-based protein processes more closely resemble traditional food processing, cultured meats are a major departure from operations that have been fine-tuned, successfully scaled, and which offer many model facilities as precedents. Cultured proteins require different technology and processes which are still in a rapid phase of development. No one has a mega factory for cultured meat, Cundiff explains, and the space is advancing and evolving so fast that companies must all learn (or re-learn) processes simultaneously. Processors and construction partners alike must be flexible as tech quickly improves and regulations such as FDA and USDA standards adapt to the trend.
With guidance from a process design partner and elements from both pharma and food & beverage facilities, customers can establish novel processes at scale while maintaining compliance with regulations and sanitary processes.