Roughly a decade ago, plant-based meat burst onto the scene and promised to transform the food industry while the money flowed in. Now, some are wondering if all that hype was overblown. Bloomberg, for example, published an article titled, “Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad” earlier this year.
But what if this is just the proverbial eye of the storm for plant-based meat? Even though all appears calm, perhaps the major disruption is still yet to come. It could be said that the plant-based industry is at a transitional moment, on the verge of something big.
That was the sentiment expressed by Elysabeth Alfano, CEO of VegTech Invest, when she sat down with The Food Institute at the Vegan Women Summit earlier this year.
“I see all of these things percolating, and the minute we coordinate these efforts, it’ll be off to the races,” said Alfano. By her calculations, governments, consumers, and legacy food companies all have a stake in transforming our food systems—albeit each for different reasons.
“Building out global food systems successfully is a critical part of growing the economy, at a time when the economy needs to grow,” Alfano explained. “The inefficiency of our global food supply system is a real cause for food insecurity… and that’s a matter of national security, a government focus.”
Disrupting Food Systems in the Age of Transparency
Meanwhile, as food transparency increases, legacy meat companies are under the spotlight like never before. “The world is starting to notice—who are the bad actors? Who causes the major pollution? Who’s got bad worker conditions?” said Alfano. “With all that transparency throughout the blockchain, who’s going to fare very poorly? Big meat.”
Many consumers are ready for food systems to change. “Consumers, especially Gen Z and millennials, but also older people—they all want a shift, for personal and planetary health.”
According to Alfano, these are the moving pieces that need to come together for the next phase of the plant-based industry to fully take shape. If these “three key stakeholders”—government, industry, and the consumer—all want the same thing, a transformative change is ahead.
“You have the food industry that wants to change, governments want to see change, and people want change. They’re aligned for different reasons, but that is a major push,” explained Alfano. “That’s why we see this very rapid s-curve adoption coming, because all major stakeholders are gunning for the same outcome at the same time.”
Looking ahead, Alfano is most excited about the groundwork that’s being laid right now for plant-based products to scale, especially as the innovations and new technologies in the sector continue to develop.
“There’s new attention being paid to how [plant-based] is going to grow and find alternative financing methods, not just venture capital, to help put the infrastructure in place to really capture demand as it grows,” she said. “That, to me, is so exciting because it’s a smart business equation—now you can be successful.”