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Novel Alternative Proteins: What can we expect for the Future?

Novel Alternative Proteins: What can we expect for the Future?

Consumers are becoming more aware of their health, the environment and being sustainable. The impact of conventional farming on the climate, alongside the want for a ‘sustainable healthy diet’ has increased the demand for alternative animal proteins.  

Two obvious markets for innovation in this area are plant-based and insect-derived. Ashbury’s food consultant Camila Gomez Pardo shares some insight into what might be expected for the future of these novel alternative proteins. 

vegan protein sources in bowls

Looking forward: plant-based & insect-derived alt proteins    

The plant-based and insect-derived novel protein market has a transformative potential in that it can meet the demands of the growing world population and lead towards a more sustainable and healthy food system.  

The future of insect protein    

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the consumption of insects has many environmental, health and social (livelihood) benefits. For example, insects use significantly less water than conventional livestock, they provide high-quality protein comparable to meat and fish, and require minimal investment for basic harvesting and rearing equipment. The resources required to produce insect protein is reported to be less than for traditional animal proteins and so is considered more sustainable.   

The use of insects as an alternative source of protein will contribute to the objectives of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy, which aim towards a fair, healthy, and environmental-friendly food system. Consequently, insects as a sustainable source of protein hold the potential for sustainability labelling. For example, food businesses using insects as novel protein may be able to claim a more sustainable production in comparison to conventional livestock production (e.g., less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional livestock). Sustainability labelling may also encourage consumers to make sustainable food choices by raising awareness of the product’s environmental, social and animal welfare impact. It is important to highlight that sustainability claims are not regulated under EU food legislation and therefore, the general principles for marketing communications apply. Claims must not be false, ambiguous, or misleading and must remain within the lines of the law. Understanding how to incorporate claims on your products is not always easy to navigate; as a first step, CMA guidelines are a good reference, however, a food consultant or food labelling company can support in assessing risk and using such claims.  

Furthermore, since insects have certain nutritional and health advantages, food business operators will benefit from the use of nutritional and health claims, which must be compliant with the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. For example, insect protein has a great potential in the sports and health nutrition market since it can be used as an ingredient to boost the protein content presenting an opportunity for businesses to make health claims related to growth or maintenance of muscle mass or normal bones. 

The future of plant-based protein    

Plant-based proteins have been widely used in products that imitate dairy and meat products. While plant-based milk and meat alternatives are consolidated, there is still an opportunity for innovation for egg and seafood alternatives. In addition to the nutrition and health benefits of plant-based diets, research suggests that plant-based products also require less environmental resources (plant alternatives to meat need less land per unit of protein), could lead to better animal welfare and less deforestation for food production. Therefore, alternative plant-based proteins also hold the potential for eco labelling. 

Last October, EFSA published a new scientific opinion on the safety of the protein isolate from mung bean (Vigna radiata) flour as a novel food and concluded it was safe under the proposed conditions of use and intake levels. This novel protein has already been used in the US as a scrambled egg alternative and it is intended to be used as a food ingredient in a range of health food products. Therefore, novel protein isolates used as protein-concentrated ingredient in health food products also hold the potential for nutrition claims (e.g., added protein, source of protein). 

Novel protein foods: moving forward     

Novel protein foods will require special attention when it comes to food allergies, since the protein is the compound responsible for the adverse reaction in susceptible individuals. Therefore, complying with the specific allergen labelling requirements for novel proteins will be essential for food businesses responsible for placing safe food on the market. 

The approval of the first legume protein and of insects under the EU’s Novel Food Regulation is a major step forward for the future of the sustainable protein alternatives market in Europe and a great opportunity for industry leaders to fulfil the consumer’s demand for healthy sustainable diets. 

You can read more about plant-based proteins here and insect-derived proteins here.  

Are you developing a product that includes approved novel foods? Our regulatory advice and food label checking service can help to ensure you comply with current regulations; we have a team of highly knowledgeable food regulatory consultants to ensure you are confident in the compliance of your products. 


Similar Blogs:

Novel Alternative Proteins: a path to sustainable healthy diets – Plant-based 

Novel Alternative Proteins: a path to sustainable healthy diets – Insect-derived 

Caitlin Stewart, Marketing Manager

My background in Food Science and Marketing means I have a unique combination of commercial creativity and technical food manufacturing experience. My ambition is to bring clarity to the complex world of compliance through the simple and eye-catching communication of Ashbury's services.

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