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"Small" body contains "big" potential, which is a "new role" in the global alternative protein Market

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According to the market data recently published by Boston Consulting Company, it is expected that the market scale of alternative protein will reach US $290 billion in 2035, of which plant-based products will account for 69%, followed by microbial fermentation protein (22%) and cell culture protein (9%). However, in terms of market consumption, in 2020, the global consumption will be about 13 million tons of alternative protein, accounting for only 2% of the animal protein market, and the market growth space is still very huge.


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Market scale of alternative protein in 2035

According to the market data of innova market insights, among the new alternative protein products launched in the global market in 2019, the leading raw materials are plant protein. The top five are wheat protein (44%), soybean protein (17%), soybean protein isolate (11%), hydrolyzed plant protein (8%) and pea protein (8%). Traditional plant proteins are also facing market "challenges". The increasing demand for plant proteins is leading to global problems such as deforestation, soil erosion and biodiversity loss.


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Major alternative proteins launched in the global market in 2019

Data source: innovamarket insights

01. Sustainable protein solution, microbial protein

Microbial protein is also a protein raw material worthy of expectation in the market, which is more sustainable than the traditional agricultural production mode. According to the market data released by the good food institute in 2020, US $837 million of venture capital has been invested in alternative protein fermentation companies around the world. 2019-2020 is also the focus of global microbial fermented protein enterprises.


Smallfood in Canada is an emerging market player in the field of alternative protein. It seeks sustainable solutions to meet the huge challenges of protein and food production in the world and has found a "microorganism" with great potential. Smallfood company said that this is a new non transgenic complete protein, which comes from single-cell marine microorganisms and claims that it can compete with animal and plant proteins in the market.


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Sustainability of smallfood protein | source: smallfood


Smallfood CEO Marc st onge said that the company is sometimes described as a "microalgae" company, but this is not strictly accurate because the organisms it grows "have nothing to do with microalgae". It is studying a single celled marine organism or protozoa. It belongs to the family cysticercosis. Strictly speaking, it is not an animal, plant or fungus. Compared with the actual microalgae, it is closer to brown algae. "Small scale" protein concentrates and isolated samples (several kilograms per week) are being produced for testing by food and beverage manufacturers.


02. The amino acid structure is closer to beef

Smallfood's study of this microorganism is unusual because it produces high levels of protein (about 60%), carbohydrates and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. By sequencing more than 20000 unique microorganisms, a candidate microorganism is generated. The protein amino acid structure produced by this microorganism is closer to beef than plant protein. Most of the amino content of this protein is equal to or better than that of soybean or pea, and contains the same level of threonine and methionine as animal protein.


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Comparison of amino acid structure of smallfood protein (plant & amp; Beef) | source: smallfood


This is a wild-type strain that does not require genetic modification (unlike some microbial proteins currently produced with the help of synthetic biology), but requires a special process. In terms of industrial scale, these protein concentrates will have price competitiveness compared with plant protein concentrates and protein isolates, while providing superior functions and nutrition. Smallfood extracts proteins through a proprietary solvent-free process to produce protein concentrate (80% protein) and isolate (minimum 90% protein, PDCAAS score: 1).


Compared with protein concentrate and isolate, the market of whole food / biomass is quite small. In addition, the company also introduced high-value lipids (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) and carbohydrates (similar to carrageenan) in the form of sulfated polysaccharides to the consumer market.


03. It has good solubility

The protein isolate produced from this microorganism is light amber and slightly delicious. Drop it into a glass of water. It is still 100% soluble at a fairly high concentration and will not precipitate. At present, the application of this raw material ranges from RTD and powdered beverages to dietary supplements, baked foods, meat analogues and various forms of protein fortified products.


Smallfood protein can also be mixed into plant formula products. At present, a lot of work is still done to understand the function of protein. At the same time, the carbohydrates contained in the raw material are similar to carrageenan to some extent, but not exactly the same, and there are some potentially interesting food application innovations.


04. Market advantages of microbial protein

In the past 12-18 months, the plant protein market has grown rapidly, from pea protein produced by distiller's grains to barley protein and then to oat protein. In contrast, microbial proteins grown in bioreactors have some market advantages.


First, these microorganisms grow rapidly and efficiently (biomass doubles every 2-3 hours), which means that proteins can be used effectively anywhere without measuring weather causes. It is reported that the company is currently turning to a semi continuous process, which can harvest protein every day and fill an industrialized fermentation tank in one day.


Secondly, from the perspective of environmental impact, the production of microbial protein has the least investment in fresh water and land. Smallfood's microorganisms need saline medium, which can consume many different types of sugars and efficiently convert them into proteins. At the same time, agricultural waste will be used as raw materials to build it into a part of the circular economy, and partnerships will be established around these key supply chains.


Finally, provide a sustainable and secure supply chain. Smallfood's innovative processing system can provide high-quality plant protein in just a few days, while pea and soybean protein take months. This process not only takes less time, but also eliminates the need for arable land, pesticides and harmful chemicals, as well as land erosion.


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Smallfood's innovative processing system | source: smallfood


05. Environment friendly protein is the future development direction

As consumers become more aware of the environment, food and beverage manufacturers have been paying close attention to Earth Friendly Non GM protein sources, which provide market space for a variety of products, including plants, microorganisms and cell cultures.


Pea protein has been improving. For example, it works well in meat substitutes, but they still have sensory challenges in products such as ready-made beverages, because they may be separated from suspended solids, their quality may be affected, or need flavor masking. They must also combine with other proteins, such as rice, to balance the composition of amino acids.


The raw material can be used in a wide range of pH values and will not form corresponding precipitation; The formula is simple; No sand, good taste, etc. It is reported that the company is talking with top food and beverage manufacturers around the world and plans to apply the raw material to food and beverage product formulas.


06. "Trouble" of regulations and labels

For consumers, the raw material still has regulatory and labeling challenges. For example, how to describe to consumers how to eat protein from microorganisms (not what can be found in ordinary food cabinets) and how to describe smallfood protein in the ingredient list. At present, the work in these two aspects is still in progress.


Strictly speaking, the description of this protein as "plant-based" is not accurate, and it is not a fungus. However, its sustainable and non GM characteristics are attractive to food companies. In the future, as arable land becomes increasingly scarce and food is increasingly cultivated in local vertical farms, bioreactors, pipelines and other systems, we must find ways to talk more widely with consumers about more and more raw materials produced by microbial food factories.

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