Investments into the alternative proteins market across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region nearly doubled to US$312 million, showing robust growth as the world increasingly embraces meatless sources of protein to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food and agriculture. APAC investments in alternative proteins – including plant-based and cultivated meat, along with fermented proteins – were up 92 per cent year on year from US$162 million in 2020, according to latest figures released on Tuesday by the Good Food Institute (GFI), a US-based alternative protein think tank. The region had a particularly strong showing in the industry, compared with global investment growth of 60 per cent over the same period. Investments in the industry reached a record high of US$5 billion globally last year, according to GFI. China’s food tech sector shows promise as consumers seek alternative diets “A seismic shift in public perception of plant-based, fermentation-enabled, and cultivated meat is under way,” said Mirte Gosker, acting managing director of GFI APAC. “And that trend has only accelerated during the global pandemic as consumers in Asia and beyond seek out healthier and more secure protein sources.” North America’s share of global investment in alternative proteins is rapidly shrinking, as start-ups from other regions grow in influence, according to GFI’s latest research looking at investment figures over the past decade. Until 2010, North American companies still accounted for 92 per cent of global alternative protein investment. By last year, that share had fallen to 67 per cent. The share of investment in APAC rose from nearly zero in 2010 to 6 per cent in 2021, according to GFI. This trend is not being driven by a rise in vegetarian diets in APAC, but rather by greater acceptance of alternative proteins by the meat-eating population, Gosker said. She cited a study by IPSOS and DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences that projected there would be a 25 per cent rise in demand for plant-based meat alternatives across APAC by 2025. Some markets like China and Thailand will see much sharper increases, according to the study, with growth as high as 200 per cent. With climate change becoming one of the world’s top priorities, more APAC countries have committed to reducing carbon emissions, including China, the world’s largest carbon emitter which aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. Globally, animal agriculture is estimated to account for around 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in the journal PLOS Climate last month. If the world were to phase out all meat and dairy production and switch to a plant-only food system in the next 15 years, it could help cancel out the forecast annual increases in total greenhouse gases from all other sources, like energy and transport, for 30 to 50 years, the journal estimated. “Across rising economies in Asia, warning lights are flashing bright red for the future of industrial animal agriculture” GFI’s Gosker said. “Conventional meat production is ill-equipped to handle the escalating regional pressures of skyrocketing protein demand, increased climate disruption, land and water scarcity, and threats of viral outbreaks.” “Business as usual clearly cannot continue,” she added, “which is why forward-thinking stakeholders from both the public and private sectors have begun to rally around more sustainable protein alternatives, including plant-based and cultivated meat.” Two of the most eye-catching deals last year in APAC’s alternative protein industry include Singaporean start-up Next Gen Foods’ record-breaking US$30 million seed funding and Australia-based v2food, which raised US$110 million in Series B fundraising. Both are known for their plant-based meat substitutes. Beyond Meat opens JD.com store to entice hesitant Chinese consumers In contrast to plant-based and cultivated meat, where APAC is moving fast, the region still lags far behind on fermentation-enabled proteins, which accounted for more than a third of all alternative protein investments globally in 2021. Regions outside of North America collectively accounted for less than 10 per cent of all fermentation-enabled protein investments, according to GFI. “Given that fermentation-enabled proteins have the potential to almost single-handedly resolve the global protein deficit, APAC start-ups, policymakers, and investors would be wise to view this rapidly expanding sector as an area for enormous regional growth,” Gosker said.