General Mills exec: Company would adopt more plant proteins, but costs prove inhibitor

Dive Brief:

  • Unless there is a major innovation in the way animal proteins are produced, food manufacturers will have to rely on plant proteins to feed the world’s projected 9.5 billion population by 2050, Erika Smith, technology director at General Mills, told an audience at Rethink’s Future Food-Tech conference.
  • Smith said General Mills is "bullish on plant proteins" and is interested in the use of algae in food products, and learning more about the use of crickets as a sustainable protein, according to the New York Business Journal.
  • Food allergens with these sources require more research; and taste, nutrition, and safety must be paramount, Smith added.

Dive Insight:

Smith was part of a panel discussing the Future of Animal-based and Alternative Protein. Ory Zik of Lux Research said that if crickets superseded beef as a source of protein, greenhouse gasses would be reduced by 9%, and fossil fuels by 56%.

However, costs remain a major problem in using these alternative protein sources. "We tie it to beef parity because we believe these emerging protein types will be cost competitive with the other meat," Zik said. "The question is how long will it take?"

Smith told the audience that General Mills would use more alternative protein systems if costs better matched conventional ones.

In the meantime, the venture capital unit of General Mills, 301 Inc., will continue to invest in plant-based startups to keep up with trends. The unit has invested in plant-based manufacturer Beyond Meat and superfood snack maker Rhythm Superfoods.

The 301 Inc. strategy is shifting toward smaller, more nimble startups. In some instances, the company may broker deals that would have the company outright purchasing the startup.

Top image credit: Wikimedia Commons