Veganism has been the IT word of the past 5 years. Starting in a hipster’s kitchen with some tasteless tofu, it was one of the fastest growing industries in 2022 with consumers becoming more sustainability-conscious and flocking to the lifestyle’s seemingly low carbon, low cruelty benefits.
But, as the effects of climate change become ever-present, concerns as to whether the vegan diet is the ultimate answer to the world’s sustainability problem are on the rise. Enter to the scene… GreenTech.
GreenTech companies such as Beyond Meat and Quorn have revolutionised the way we think about our diet by pushing the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to food. Join us for a deep dive discussion into the future of veganism, to answer one of the main questions facing the food industry, is vegan the answer to becoming net zero?
The Growth of Vegan GreenTech
It’s no question whether a vegan diet is better for the planet than a meat-based diet. With up to 63,875 kg of greenhouse gases emitted per year from one average meat-eater, it’s clear that we must reduce our intake.
Thankfully customers have become a catalyst for change as increasing numbers have begun to walk past the Morrisons meat isle. In fact, as of 2019, there were estimated to be 600,000 vegans in the UK, with the rising numbers largely attributed to campaigns such as “Veganuary” and the plethora of emerging of plant-based meat substitutes meaning vegans don’t have to sacrifice taste for the planet. Consumers enjoy these substitutes so much that the UK Vegan GreenTech market is now worth €502 million.
But, as brands such as Beyond Meat, Quorn, and Redefine Meat, revolutionise what we think is possible with food, do they help maintain the vegan diets sustainability credentials?
Unfortunately, as many vegan GreenTech brands don’t disclose their processes due to copyright, it’s difficult to accurately judge their carbon footprint.
It is estimated that current cellular-based meat alternatives release five times the greenhouse gas emissions of the average chicken, meaning some vegan products could be just under beef in the carbon emissions leaderboard. But these estimations are just that… estimates.
With Green technology evolving at a lightning pace and NDAs pulling up smoke screens in a bid to keep innovations exclusive, the only metrics experts have to go on come from the meat industry and traditional vegan alternatives such as pure soy. Both of which have pretty high carbon price tags. While GreenTech’s lab-based creation is currently unlikely to be carbon neutral, advancements in renewable energy and AgriTech could result in a drastic change in protein’s carbon emissions board over the next few years.
The Future of Vegan Innovation
Market leaders, Beyond Meat, have shown that evolving the way we think about “meat” can change the way we in turn approach sustainability. Their lab-grown burgers claim to use 93% less land, 99% less water and 46% less energy than the average U.S. beef burger, meaning that despite them not being net zero they are still present a more sustainable option for consumers than the average traditional meat consumption.
Martin Heller, a research specialist at the University of Michigan, said: “There are no silver bullets for climate change. Nothing in isolation will be ‘enough’”, and we think that when it comes to veganism he’s right. Being vegan isn’t necessarily the answer to sustainability, not when many substitutes continue to have non-disclosed carbon footprints. Instead, we must continue to reimagine the food industry to fit in with the worlds decarbonisation needs to create a greener future, and GreenTech plays a big role in that.
Innovations in technology are how we have advanced every other aspect of human life. From healthcare to construction, mobile phones to smart heaters, many industries are using technological advancement to be create a more sustainable future. So why can’t we do that with food?
Next steps into Net Zero
Overall, veganism is a more sustainable diet than the average non-vegan diet, but it still isn’t a conclusive answer to the food industries carbon issues. Instead, members of the industry should continue to strive towards a net zero carbon alternative to meat through thinking outside the realm of traditional food. While a genetically engineered 3D printed steak may sound like something out of a futuristic film, it’s actually already here. Showing that food can be whatever we want it to be, including carbon neutral.
At Halston group, we’re pretty confident in saying that we know our sh*t, but we’re always learning. Our research never stops to ensure we have full, deep understand of each and every one of the industries that we thrive in. Check out our latest whitepaper Entering the GreenTech era.