Why businesses are looking into food diversification

The pressing issue of climate change has put into the spotlight ‘food sustainability’, prompting a greater awareness on ‘how we eat’ among the public and businesses.

Food and environment are intertwined and in order to address such SDGs (※1) as the degradation of land, water and biodiversity resources, societies need to rethink how food is produced.

According to IPCC (※2), agricultural production accounts for 24 percent of greenhouse (GHG) emissions from economic sectors (2014). Livestock contribute 80% of all agriculture’s direct emissions and ruminants account for more than 80% of total livestock-related GHG emissions (OECD 2018).

In response to rising demand for protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and dairy, businesses are looking into food diversification, aiming to offer savory and nutritious but at the same time eco-friendly choices to consumers.

Meat substitutes: what are alternative protein-rich foods?

In Japan, Ryohin Keikaku Co Ltd, an owner of MUJI brand, has teamed up with researchers at Tokuhisma University to create “cricket crackers” which will be available in selected Mujirushi Ryohin stores by spring 2020.

Crickets can be cultivated within 35 days and contain such nutrients as proteins, calcium and iron. They mainly feed on grains but being omnivorous can help tackle the food waste problem.

Crickets can help save the planet?

According to FAO (※3), crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein.

In addition to edible insects, there are meat substitutes such as plant-based foods. According to the Good Food Institute (GFI), the total investment in plant-based meat, eggs and dairy in the US comprised $17.1 billion, with 39.4 percent growth between 2017 and 2018. Compared to traditional meat, eggs and dairy, the new products contain proteins derived from plant ingredients such as cereal and legume crops.

In November 2019, the US fast food group Burger King announced the launch of its ”vegetarian burger “Rebel Whopper in 25 countries across Europe. The Rebel Whopper, made with soya protein patties from Unilever-owned The Vegetarian Butcher, will go on sale in more than 2,400 outlets.

Packaged food producers such as Danone and Nestle are also heavily investing in the development of animal protein-free products. Danone has promised to triple sales of plant-based products to €5 billion by 2025, and Nestle aims to reach $1 billion in sales from plant-based products within a decade.

(※1) SDGs are Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations$ in 2015.
(※2) IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
(※3) FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.