According to Naef, the US is now far from being the only booming market when it comes to plantbased proteins. “We are seeing big momentum in Europe and Asia. Even in countries you might not think of at first, such as Italy, France, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China.” Growth is also expedited by economic and health factors spurred by the concerns around the spread of zoonotic disease, such as swine flu and coronavirus.
“You can see very clearly that the change makes a great deal of sense, not least from the ecological perspective. If you look at the CO2 emissions required to produce the same amount of protein from meat or from plants, it is immediately clear which solution is more sustainable. Moreover, we will be dependent on plant proteins if we are to continue feeding humanity on a sustainable basis in the future.”
Intensive research and development efforts in recent years have paid off. Due to the increasing media presence of successful brands, continuing interest of customers, and rising sales figures, more and more food producers are taking an interest in the technology. In addition to the start-ups that have already made rapid headway with exciting products, many of which are working with Bühler, more and more traditional businesses are also becoming keen on these products. “We are seeing a large number of inquiries from long-standing Bühler customers who see an opportunity to differentiate themselves with such products – for example from the flour milling industry,” explains Naef.
A novelty in Bühler’s history with these types of products is the interest that is now being shown by meat processing companies, many of which are discovering the vegetarian and vegan markets. “This is a completely new customer group for us. But it is actually a logical step for these companies,” says Naef. “Although meat producers have so far had no raw material handling operations or extrusion solutions, most of them have the rest of the production chain. They have the further processing, the cold chain, and the packaging operations.”
Many meat producers regard products made of vegetable proteins as a supplement to their product range. The German company Rügenwalder, for example, known for its sausage products, has set itself the goal of offering 40 percent meat-free products in its range by the end of 2020. And more and more of these products are to be vegan.