Meat eating in Britain at its lowest point! UK councils join the greener eating revolution! Denmark and South Korea launch world’s first plant-based action plans! Based on our stories, you might have imagined that last year was the high water mark of plant-based news. But 2024 is already shaping up to take us several steps further along a road that could conceivably lead to a mostly vegan future.
Over the next 12 months you can expect to see alternative proteins becoming even more mainstream and even more meat free offerings appearing on supermarket shelves, driven by eco-conscious young people hungry for environmentally friendly grub and a healthy planet – and of course by the companies hungry for their custom.
So what’s on the menu for 2024? Plant-based seafood is expected to make a real splash, according to two reports, by Whole Foods Market and the Specialty Food Association, particularly vegan tinned fish, made from soy, wheat, pea and konjac. Keep an eye out for brands including Konscious Foods, Seed to Surf and Good Catch. A tiddler worth just $42.1 million in 2021, the fish-free seafood industry will be a $1.3 billion whale by 2031, according to Allied Market Research.
The reports underline the fact that meat free eaters are getting increasingly picky about highly processed vegan and veggie fare, and are likely to be ordering simpler whole foods such as mushrooms, legumes, tempeh and walnuts. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) is allowing companies to push the taste and texture boundaries, with Climax Foods creating a plant-based version of the protein casein, thus vegan cheese that melts and oozes just like the dairy version, which is likely to be gracing toasties aplenty this year.
And speaking of AI, ChatGPT – as ubiquitous as plant-based food last year, and equally as capable of changing the world – has been reading the tea leaves and predicts a year of steady advances on the road to what, within half a century, will be a mostly plant-based planet.
The AI software was asked to suggest a timeline assuming “that Gen Z and millennials raising awareness [of] animal agriculture will lead to a significant shift in dietary habits”, based on a study on the food industry’s eagerness to cater for a growing cohort of young, green customers.
Its prognostications included largely plant-based “flexitarian” diets becoming mainstream within the next three years, technological breakthroughs making meat and dairy alternatives tastier and more affordable by 2032 (see melty vegan cheese, above), and plant-based agriculture receiving government subsidies in Europe and the US by 2037. By 2057, according to ChatGPT, veganism will be “widely accepted and normalised in many parts of the world”; by 2073 the world will be enjoying an almost entirely plant-based diet; and two years later, animal farming will be “obsolete” and the livestock industry will have collapsed.
If that sounds a bit AI in the sky, consider that it’s not only the robots predicting a brave new plant-based world. A report this year explained how a “tipping cascade” of positive effects would ensue if the UK’s public canteens – in schools, hospitals, prisons – went meat free. And back in 2019, in a report to commemorate its 150th birthday that looked forward to the next 150 years, Sainsbury’s supermarket judged that shoppers would be filling trolleys based on “unprecedented awareness of animal welfare, health concerns and eco-anxiety”.
In the short term, it expected a quarter of Britons to be vegetarian and half of us flexitarian by the end of this year, and the alternative protein market to have grown by a quarter. While not as confident as ChatGPT that the days of animal products are numbered, it suggests that by 2050, lab-grown meat or “cellular proteins” will be “a genuine market competitor”, and shoppers will be able to buy cheaper “home-cultured” meat, fish and dairy.
So here’s hoping you have a happy, hungry new year, MFMers. Keep us posted about your favourite food trends in 2024 and stay tuned for the next big plant-based thing.