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Plant-based protein trends: Navigating innovation and market growth

The global food industry is undergoing a major shift in consumer demand, with growing evidence indicating that consumer preferences are increasingly leaning toward plant-based diets. This trend is driven by various factors including health benefits, sustainability, ethical concerns, and a desire to align with trends regarded as “cool.”

Consequently, food producers are faced with both challenges and opportunities as they look to adapt and capitalise upon emerging plant-based protein trends.  By leveraging innovation and cutting-edge technologies shaping the industry, producers can not only meet market demands, but also drive sustainable growth and ensure commercial viability. In this article, our experts take a deep dive into emerging plant-based protein trends, discussing the innovations driving the sector and key strategies to navigating new market opportunities.

What’s driving plant-based protein trends?

Protein is a vital component of human nutrition, constituting approximately 15-20% of our caloric intake. Increased consumer awareness of the environmental and health impacts of animal-based diets is driving increased openness to the consumption of plant-based protein consumption. Plant-based diets have been reported to generally minimise and control incidence of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes etc.

Moreover, producing an equivalent amount of animal protein requires over 100 times the land and water needed for plant-based protein, making it a key player in the industry-wide push toward sustainability and environmental stewardship.

According to Future Market Insights, the global plant-based protein market is currently valued at approximately $18.64 billion and projected to reach approximately $42.55 billion within the next 10 years, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6%. The lucrative market and the projected surge in demand for plant-based protein has prompted food producers to explore innovative solutions to meet the diverse needs of consumers seeking alternatives to traditional animal-based protein sources. 

Technological innovations driving plant-based protein production 

Despite growing consumer interest and market potential, challenges persist in producing plant-based proteins. Replicating meat’s taste and texture remains difficult, while concerns linger about nutrient deficiencies like vitamin B12 and iron compared to animal proteins.

Conventional extraction techniques only remove around 50% of plant biomass protein efficiently. Thus, innovations like cellular agriculture, precision fermentation, and novel extraction techniques are proving beneficial for improving taste, texture, flavour, nutritional content, and production efficiency. 

Cellular agriculture: Cellular agriculture involves the controlled and sustainable manufacture of food and agricultural products with cells and tissues without relying on plant or animal. Plant cells with unique properties can be cultivated in a contained environment to produce bioactive compounds continuously. For instance, bioactive compounds such as carthamin – produced using cultured plant cells – have been used to improve the redness of plant-based meat. Additionally, cultures of flower, Echinacea angustifolia, have been recently used for large-scale manufacture of nutritional and food supplement ingredients.

Precision fermentation: Precision fermentation utilises genetically engineered microorganisms as cell factories to produce targeted functional ingredients, including plant proteins. These proteins can then be used to formulate plant-based products that mimic the texture, nutritional profile, and taste of animal products. For example, an Australian company, Nourish Ingredients, uses precision fermentation technology to create plant-based proteins with improved nutritional profile, texture, and taste.

Novel ingredients extraction techniques: Advanced processing methods such as high-pressure processing (HPP) or shear cell technology, ohmic heating, electrospinning, and enzymatic hydrolysis allow for the extraction of proteins, fibres, and other bioactive compounds from plant materials at high efficiency while preserving their nutritional integrity. These techniques not only enhance the nutritional profile of plant-based products but also contribute to improved taste and texture, addressing key factors driving consumer acceptance and adoption.

Navigating the market  

To thrive in this dynamic plant-based protein market, food producers must strategically navigate through key areas of production, taste and texture optimisation, and cost competitiveness. 

Scaling production: As demand for plant-based protein continues to rise, embracing scalable production methods is imperative. Automation and technology-driven processes will enhance efficiency, lower costs, and boost competitiveness. 

Optimising taste and texture: Despite nutritional benefits, consumer acceptance hinges on taste and texture. Investing in research and development of technologies and formulation techniques which will enable sensory properties plant-based proteins mimic traditional meat products is crucial for broader adoption and market penetration. 

Cost competitiveness: Cost efficiency is pivotal amid market saturation. Sustainable sourcing, process optimisation, and economies of scale are key for maintaining quality while reducing production costs. Achieving cost competitiveness will help secure a strategic foothold in the growing plant-based protein market. 


Emerging plant-based protein trends present a pivotal moment for food producers looking to seize new opportunities and enter new markets. Meeting these evolving demands sustainably will require the use of cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. By scaling production, optimising taste and texture, and ensuring cost competitiveness, producers can thrive in this dynamic market, driving sustainable growth and meeting the diverse needs of consumers.  

Navigating plant-based protein trends

At Farrelly Mitchell, we recognise that innovation is the cornerstone of success and market leadership. Our team of technology and innovation consultants is dedicated to helping food and agribusinesses thrive in today’s dynamic landscape. We offer expert guidance on leveraging cutting-edge technologies to develop your product portfolio, optimising production efficiency, and enhancing product quality for sustainable growth.

Our commercial consultants bring extensive experience in conducting thorough market research, understanding consumer preferences, and delivering actionable insights to inform your strategic decisions and drive market development and penetration. We diligently stay atop of the latest trends and emerging markets, such as food ingredients and alternative proteins, to ensure that our knowledge is up-to-date, and our solutions are effective.

To unlock market opportunities, drive sustainable growth, and achieve your business objectives, contact Farrelly Mitchell today.


Nathan Davies

Director (Food Systems Services)
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