Agricultural shift to plant-based protein

Consumer demands for healthier ethical produce are rapidly changing the Australian farming industry and providing huge opportunities for plant- based businesses.

Concerns such as the environment, health and animal welfare are some of the key reasons why Australians are choosing plants for their sources of protein instead of meat.

The report by CSIRO Futures is based on current consumer trends and predicts that the demand for alternative proteins is likely to continue.

Australian businesses are already reaping the benefits.

Life Health Foods general manager Dean Epps says his business has seen 20 per cent growth in the last five years.

The emerging industry is set to see 3.5 per cent growth per annum.
Photo: Simone Grogan.

He says they saw plant-based proteins as more than just a fad and a great opportunity within Australian agribusiness.  

“We just believed that it wasn’t going to be a fad and that the underlying issues are so fundamental that this would actually be a long term transition,” Mr Epps says.

“There’s a massive opportunity here to be able to support Australian farmers and the economy through local businesses manufacturing plant- based products within Australia using Australian ingredients.”

He also attributes the rising cost of meat to consumers making the switch.

“Meat prices in general have been creeping. There are a lot of people that are actually switching to a plant-based diet because the cost of meat is too high,” he says.

Listen to our extended interview with Dean Epps.

CSIRO senior economic advisor Katherine Wynn says the figures are an insight into the growth opportunities available within Australia. 

“Our research intends to help inform strategic and investment decisions, particularly around leveraging these growth opportunities,” she says.

“Some businesses are also shifting towards investing in and producing these products and services because they see the consumer demand.”

She adds there is still work to be done to capture the potential value. 

“We need to invest in science and technology to create the next wave of trusted premium products and services that meets the needs of millions of informed and discerning customers,” she says.

“These growth opportunities will provide the Australian consumer with more trusted premium products and services that meet their changing preferences for sustainable and ethical foods as well as natural and healthy foods.”

Perth restaurant Utopia has long been part of this trend serving meat alternatives for nearly 20 years for diners of all diets.

Joy Juang and Steven Su have been working at Utopia for two years.
Photo: Simone Grogan.

Steven Su says most of their customers come to try something new.

“They want to try something different without meat, when they try our food they say it is intoxicating and they like it,” Steven says.

“It’s becoming a lot more common as a lot more people care about these issues.”

“There’s a lot more teenagers and families, parents bring their children to eat and try our food.”