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New Zealand needs to speed up its response to growing consumer demand for alternative plant-based proteins, according to the New Zealand co-authors of a new report.

New Zealand’s FoodHQ and Foodvalley NL in the Netherlands recently released an “Innovation Scan” of the rapidly evolving landscape of the alternative protein sectors in both countries.

FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson (pictured below) says the take home message from the report is clear, New Zealand  needs a constructive national “discussion” about how we can develop an alternative protein sector.

“There are increasing numbers of people all around the world who have made the decision that they want to eat less meat and dairy and more plant-based proteins. This isn’t necessarily about them becoming vegan, it’s about a protein transition – a change in the balance of where some of their protein is coming from. It’s a significant new market opportunity for New Zealand food producers,” says Dr Thompson.

She says diversification into more plant based foods needs to happen, but shouldn’t be seen as an attack on New Zealand’s existing animal protein sector.

“There will always be strong demand for our New Zealand’s animal protein products. Our pasture-based farming systems underpin the NZ primary sector and they are the envy of other meat and dairy producing nations.”

However, global plant based protein sales rose 17 percent in 2018 and the Innovation Scan describes a dynamic and rapidly evolving consumer shift towards alternative plant protein.

It identifies some of the entrepreneurs, farmers and large food companies in both countries focused on rolling out new products and ingredients using alternative plant based proteins, insect sources and new biotechnology.

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre has set a target ratio of animal-to-plant protein consumption of 50:50 by 2025. Currently animal protein makes up 62 percent of the Dutch diet.

In response to the new target, the first global platform for ingredient suppliers, food manufacturers and other stakeholders was set up by Foodvalley NL in 2017. The Protein Cluster supports them in expanding their businesses and meeting consumer demands for more plant based foods. Within a year more than 70 new plant based products were launched in the Netherlands .

New Zealand’s animal protein intake is similar to the Netherlands at 60 percent of our average daily consumption. Large New Zealand research providers, such as Plant and Food Research and AgResearch are involved in a number of important biotechnological developments, and scientific projects in the alternative protein space.

However the authors say the bulk of new plant protein product development in New Zealand is being taken on by small to medium sized private enterprises which often don’t have ready access to technology and science.

A collaboration between New Zealand’s Kiwi Quinoa and the The Quinoa Company (TQC) in the Netherlands provides an excellent example of the mutual benefit and value that can be created. Kiwi Quinoa used TQC varieties to produce the first quinoa crop in New Zealand and has sublicence agreements giving them access to Dutch agricultural expertise.

Report author and FoodHQ business development manager, Amos Palfreyman (pictured above) spent three months in the Netherlands studying the alternative protein sector with Miranda van Dijck, Innovation Analyst at Foodvalley NL. He says the Innovation Scan should inspire the New Zealand food and agricultural sector that there is plenty of scope for new entrants to develop products that resonate deeply with consumers.

“International collaboration between scientists, food companies, entrepreneurs and producers will be crucial to speeding up our response to growing consumer demand for plant-based proteins.

“The challenge we put to companies in both countries is to just pause and consider how much further, faster and better their businesses could go with a bit more collaboration,” says  Palfreyman.


Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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