Work with, not against, the plant protein trend

Sylvain Charlebois/RealAgriculture

If 2019 was the year of plant-based protein, perhaps 2020 can be the year of celebrating choice.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, with Dalhousie University, recently spoke at the CropSphere conference at Saskatoon, Sask., about food choices, plant-based protein, and consumer trends. Overall, he says, plant protein made a huge splash in 2019 as evidenced by several fast good chains added fake meat to the menu, but the response from the agriculture industry has been quite negative.

“Food is not a right or wrong issue,” he says. Consumers look at plant-based versus livestock protein differently, but not always negatively, he says, adding that livestock producers have a tasty, natural, unprocessed product to offer — and that’s a positive.

(Since this was recorded, Tim Horton’s has since pulled the Beyond Meat option from the last two provinces it was offered.)

“Choice is good, [plant based protein and livestock protein] are different things; and we have to respect consumers right to choose,” Charlebois says. Instead of viewing plant vs. animal protein as a “I win, so you lose” scenario, he challenges producers to think about the perceived value each item can offer, and not about consumers choosing only one and not the other.