Demand for alternative proteins – beyond traditional meat, fish and dairy sources – continues to expand as consumers turn to products they view as healthier and more sustainable. Food formulators are working to drive excitement through innovation with alternative protein sources.

Why is protein good for our body? 

Protein is a key component of a balanced diet. Proteins, which are made up of long chains of amino acids, are often described as ‘the building blocks of life’.

Protein is responsible for building lean body tissue and providing the elements needed for digestive enzymes. It is an essential part of a balanced diet and vital for growing and repairing cells.

Where can protein traditionally be found? 

There are many foodstuffs that offer a rich source of protein. They include lean meats such as turkey and chicken, eggs and milk.

Many meat substitutes also contain a vegetarian protein, allowing those who opt for a meat-free diet to get their recommended amounts.

What are alternative protein sources?

New technologies are driving a revolution in protein possibilities that go far beyond traditional agriculture.

Alternative proteins, such as plant-based meat substitutes and edible insects, provide a substantial amount of protein but require less natural inputs to produce then the most common protein sources, meat and fish. Composed of different sequences of amino acids, proteins are found in almost all whole foods. 

Plant proteins 

Plant-based innovation is flourishing, according to Innova Market Insights, as the growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics drive plant-derived ingredients and products into high popularity. Innova reports that plant-based product claims increased by 62 percent globally (CAGR, 2013-2017) with growth occurring on platforms including plant proteins. These can include hemp, brown rice, fava beans and chickpeas. 

Research conducted by Packaged Facts indicates that 37 per cent of consumers aged 25 – 39-year-olds are likely to seek out plant proteins.

Soy still accounts for the largest share of plant-based alternative proteins but is reported to be on the decline due to allergens. Pea is growing in popularity – pea protein is extracted from green and yellow split peas and is used to make protein powder. It is often used as a base in packaged foods like veggie burgers and vegan mayonnaise and can even be used to replace dairy in some ice creams and milks.

Nuts and super grains

Grains are a fantastic source of protein and relatively economical; a handful goes a long way! Quinoa is currently a trendy grain – it contains all 8 essential amino acids, making it more nutritious than rice and couscous but just as filling. Regarded as the sacred “mother grain”, gluten-free quinoa is growing in popularity as a protein alternative.  

Nuts are a fantastic everyday source of protein, which are ideal for health-conscious snacking. For example, one cup of almonds provides more protein than an egg, while cashew nuts are high in antioxidants and promote good cardiovascular health.

Insect proteins

People are eager to experiment, are ethically or politically motivated to swap out meat and dairy proteins for environmentally alternatives and compelled to look for what’s next. 

That next protein step could be insects – where mealworms, crickets and locusts alike are consumed. 

According to research carried out by United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, edible insects contain high-quality protein, vitamins and amino acids, and are rich in fibre, healthy fats and nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins. 

Around 2 billion people around the world already consume insects as part of their regular diet due to their high nutritional value, versatility and flavour – but are insects close to entering the regular European diet? Can this niche alternative protein cross to the mainstream?  

Protein filled future

Whether for health or ethical reasons or just plain preference, consumers are warming up to new alternative protein sources. Food manufacturers are becoming inventive and consumers are more accepting of these new protein sources as demand for animal-based protein slows.

At Cornelius, we can provide a range of plant-based proteins which deliver an array of health benefits, including rice protein in concentrate and isolate.