Forty per cent of giant food producers and retailers have dedicated teams working on plant-based product research and development, according to a new report 'Appetite for Disruption: A Second Serving' from FAIRR - a London-based nonprofit investor network.
FAIRR collaborated with 25 food manufacturers and retailers over four years to examine how they approach animal-free proteins.
The report reveals that the biggest food producers, such as Unilever and Nestlé, are moving away from animal protein and are committed to shifting their products toward more sustainable plant-based protein sources. Unilever has invested $94 million in a new research and development centre that employs 500 food engineers to "help formulate the next generation of meat and dairy alternatives" for its food brands.
Nestlé has also been actively investing in plant-based products. Currently, ten per cent of Nestlé's R&D employees are dedicated entirely to the development of plant-based products.
Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and Chief Investment Officer at Coller Capital, said: "The company data published today is hard evidence that big food brands are vying for their slice of the plant-based pie."
"They are drastically scaling-up and skilling-up their capacity to research and develop plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy."
The report also indicates that investment in the plant-based food sector has doubled in 2020 compared to 2019 and reached $1.1 billion. According to FAIRR, the plant-based products' market will grow to $17.9 billion by 2025.
Coller added: "The post-COVID landscape has made 2020 a watershed year for the sustainable protein market: the sector has attracted double the investment of last year in just six months."
"This engagement shows which food companies are putting in place the infrastructure and innovation to benefit from this seismic shift in the ways we shop and eat; and those that will lose out. Investors are watching closely."