New research says growing demand for innovative foods in Asia opens up export opportunities

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Image credit: Food Frontier

A recent study by independent alternative proteins think tank, Food Frontier, has found that a burgeoning market for alternative proteins in Asia presents an opportunity for Australian and New Zealand manufacturers.

The research, available in a report called “Alternative Proteins and Asia” revealed that the most promising market opportunity in Asia for exporters of plant-based meat and goods from cellular agriculture is China due to its growing interest in alternative proteins. 

In particular, researchers evaluated 11 Asian nations, evaluating them according to how well they would fit into the market in terms of market size and innovation, market entry and operations, and consumer intelligence.

The top five markets with the biggest potential were determined to be China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, ranked in order of potential. 

Five thousand customers from each of these markets participated in the report’s primary research.

Dr Simon Eassom, executive director of Food Frontier, said that Australia and New Zealand have a history of trade with Asia and have a unique position as trustworthy trading partners of high-quality and safe products due to their proximity to one another. 

He said, “With an expanding alternative proteins market in Asia, Australia and New Zealand have the potential to build a major new food export industry that complements our existing ones.

“Health, environmental and food security concerns are behind the growing demand for alternative proteins. Population growth and rising incomes across Asia will drive a 78% increase in meat and seafood consumption regionally by 2050,” Dr Eassom explained. 

Furthermore, the Food Frontier official said that more people are becoming interested in a flexitarian diet, which involves regularly substituting traditional animal meat for new options like plant-based meat.

He said this offers a familiar eating experience without sacrificing nutritional value, as a result of growing consumer interest in healthy and environmentally sustainable protein options.

“Flexitarians are driving demand for alternative proteins in Australia—our latest research shows this is also the case in Asia. A quarter of Chinese identify as flexitarian and one-third plan to reduce at least one type of meat. Similarly, twenty-six per cent of South Koreans want to reduce meat consumption,” Dr Eassom said.

Statista estimates that the Asian market for meat alternatives is currently worth USD 4.32 billion, and that it will expand by 33.27 per cent annually to USD 13.63 billion by 2027. 

In China, where there is the most demand, the market for meat replacements is anticipated to expand by 20 per cent yearly. 

In the study, Food Frontier partnered with researchers Mintel and New Zealand’s food and fibre sector think tank Te Puna Whakaarouni to identify new export opportunities for manufacturers.