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Jeremy Coller: Why We’re Launching the Alternative Proteins Association

The UK has always been seen as a pioneering nation – from the steam engine and industrial revolution to the computer and world wide web.  We are renowned for our scientific and research quality, as well as our engineering expertise.  British universities remain the envy of the world.  And the success of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout points to a new golden era of British bioprocessing and distribution.

We, therefore, have the opportunity to be a global leader in food technology if we harness the power of our entrepreneurial spirit, leverage the UK’s world class R&D capabilities and get the right regulatory framework in place.

So companies, investors, NGOs, academics, scientists and entrepreneurs are coming together to launch the Alternative Proteins Association (APA) in Parliament next week.  Because with the National Food Strategy just around the corner, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a thriving UK alternative proteins industry is one important answer to many of today’s challenges. 

Young couple eating burger outdoors, APA
Image courtesy of APA

Take the challenge of reaching Net Zero. There is no doubt that the intensive production of animal proteins is a key driver in Britain’s carbon emissions. It accounts for almost two thirds of UK food emissions. Unless we reduce the amount of animal protein we consume by at least 20 per cent, the Climate Change Committee predicts Britain has no chance of achieving its Net Zero targets.

Alternative proteins are a key weapon in the battle to keep global warming below 2°C.  They use far less land, water and emissions compared to animal protein. Crucially, these benefits can be accessed without limiting people’s lives or adding to the cost of living.

Of course, the opportunities for Britain go far beyond reducing carbon emissions.

This industry will have a tangible impact on the quality of people’s lives, and, with the right support, create tens of thousands of high-skilled jobs in the UK.  And unlike other emerging industries that rely heavily on graduates from the golden triangle of London-Oxford-Cambridge, it won’t just be southern England that benefits.

APA logo full colours
©Alternative Proteins Association

In fact, the UK Trade Department says northern England will benefit greatly from a British alternative proteins boom thanks to its top-notch universities, excellent research facilities, and strong farming heritage.

The British people are ahead of the Government on this.  By 2025, one in four of us will either be vegetarians or vegan.  And yet, Britain risks falling behind Canada, USA and Israel; all of whose governments have embraced, rather than shunned, food innovation.

“By 2025, one in four of us will either be vegetarians or vegan”

The answer is staring us in the face. Britain is blessed with agricultural land perfect for growing all manner of crops. We are entirely self-sufficient in wheat to the extent that it’s one of our key export foodstuffs. We’re also the second largest pea producer in Europe. These, along with barley, oats, and mushrooms, are the key ingredients in almost all leading products.

Smithy Mushrooms
©Smithy Mushrooms

Upscaling our production and research facilities, and enhancing this expertise with farmers, would make alternative proteins a British industry of national strategic importance. From seed to shelf, Britain’s growing consumer base could be served up products created within a few miles of where they’re eaten; saving money, land, animals, the planet, farmers’ livelihoods and people’s lives.

But there’s no reason that these products could not be sold overseas as well. By 2030 the global plant-based protein market could be worth a whopping $85 billion. With the right support now, products made in Teeside, Yorkshire, London or Lancashire could be dished up around the world.

From next week the APA will be making the case for a British food system fit for the 21st Century. The United Kingdom has a proud history of leading revolutionary changes and can do so again with alternative proteins.  This country does best when it’s looking to the future and boldly seizing the opportunities to innovate.  Join APA today in making this happen.

Jeremy Coller is the President of the Alternative Proteins Association.

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