By Dr Alan Barclay
National Retail Association Health & Nutrition Advisor
In the wake of growing consumer interest and acceptance of plant-based proteins, the Australian Senate recently launched an Inquiry into the definitions of meat and other animal products, to ensure that Australian producers of animal-based proteins are not being unfairly affected and that consumers aren’t being misled.
Traditionally, plant-based protein included pulses (chickpeas, lentils, beans, and peas), tofu, soy, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and certain grains. However, nut “meats” and soy “milks” have been available in Australian supermarkets and health food stores for several decades and have become mainstream in recent years due to new product innovation, and as vegetarianism and flexitarianism has become more popular.
The most recent available evidence indicates that sales of both animal-based protein and plant-based protein are increasing in Australia, with the Australian plant-based protein market still a small fraction of the meat industry market. In order to meet global requirements of our growing population, more high-quality animal and plant-based protein will be required both domestically and for export markets.
Within Australia’s Quick Service Restaurant industry, most plant-based proteins are not referring to animal products, either in wording or imaging. Primary descriptors on menus for meals that are using plant-based proteins include “plant-based” pizza, “vegan” cheese, “vegan burger”, and “vege burger”, making their source very clear to consumers.
The reality is that there is a strong demand for plant-based protein options and retailers should be able to meet this demand with readily available and clearly delineated plant-based options. The plant-based protein industry is not a threat to the animal-protein industry as some respondents have submitted. As the global population increases along with increasing preference for high-quality protein, sources indicate that demand for both will increase in the foreseeable future.
From a resource and public health perspective, both sources will be necessary.