The Future of Protein Summit – Report from the Frontlines of Protein Innovation
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
The Future of Protein Summit 2.0
The Good Food Institute India officially began operations in December 1, 2017. I had engaged
deeply with the US-based non-profit the Good Food Institute over the month prior, diving into
their work building a relatively new and exciting sector called alternative protein. At the time,
plant-based and cultivated meat, eggs, and dairy replacements had garnered significant early
press and investment from the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and
Google Ventures. The goal was to completely reimagine meat, eggs, and dairy - make
substitutes from plants which perfectly replace them on the basis of taste and cost, or make
them through fermentation or by cultivating them directly from cells.
The challenge in India was considerable, though - scope the market, stimulate research and
entrepreneurship, engage with government, and essentially help build an entire sector from the
ground up. The ensuing explosion in food innovation would allow producers and consumers
more sustainable means of supplying the growing Indian population’s demand for
animal-sourced foods, while benefiting farmers and targeting malnutrition.
I’ve written before in AGCONNECT about India’s role in the growth of the alternative protein
sector, and why reimagining meat, eggs, and dairy is a transformation imperative for people and
planet. On November 11-12 2019, a great deal of our scientific, policy, and corporate
engagement over the last 2 years coalesced at our annual event, the Future of Protein Summit.
Over 350 attendees including key government officials, large corporations, entrepreneurs,
investors, and scientists gathered at the India Habitat Centre for deep dives into the scientific,
business, and regulatory environment surrounding plant-based, cultivated, and fermented
sources of meat, eggs, and dairy, and to chart a path for their development in the region. Some
highlights from the event include:
● Honourable Members of Parliament Smt Maneka Gandhiji and Smt Poonam Mahajanji
expressing support for the growth of the sector, and its tremendous potential to benefit
farmers and vulnerable populations.
● The Ambassador of Israel His Excellency Dr Ron Malka presenting Israel's leadership in
the sector and how we can leverage ties (" Make in India, Make With India ") for an
accelerated path in the South Asian region.
● A panel on policy and the government's role in the sector , where Food Safety &
Standards Authority of India CEO Shri Pawan Kumar Agarwal elucidated the role of
government in safeguarding consumers while supporting innovation, and the intersection
between the alternative protein sector and FSSAI’s 'Eat Right, Eat Sustainable'
● An entrepreneur showcase with 6 early-stage companies showing the kind of innovation
in ingredients, manufacturing, and localized product development we expect in the
● An investor panel with some of the biggest consumer and technology funds in India
(DSG, Fireside Ventures, Accel), hosted by $100m+ agrifood fund Omnivore's Managing
Partner Mark Kahn.
● NITI Aayog CEO Shri Amitabh Kant delivering a keynote highlighting plant-based and
cultivated meat, eggs, and dairy as a ‘sunrise industry’, with huge potential to mitigate
climate change, food insecurity, and antimicrobial resistance.
● Two sessions on our Indigenous Crops Initiative , with leading scientists and
entrepreneurs from organizations including Indian Institute of Millets Research,
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, and Tata Trusts
speaking about how we should build up scientific data and value chains, to diversify the
inputs for plant-based food innovation and to benefit farmers.
● GFI-India and Ingredion presenting consumer insights and pathways for the growth of
the sector in the region.
● Individual sessions on flavours and on plant-based and cultivated seafood, with
discussion from leading researchers and corporations on how we can catalyze the
growth of these relatively neglected areas.
● Leadership at 4 leading universities for cultivated meat research and commercialization,
discussing that they'd like to create a consortium for cooperative cultivated meat
research leveraging their respective strengths.
All in all, the Summit was a rallying point to lay the groundwork of an immense transformation.
People came from Singapore, Canada, Dubai, Bangladesh, and all over India, stayed through a
number of technical sessions to drink through a firehose of information, and forged deep and
Several questions still remain about the growth of the sector in our region. The global alternative
protein sector has thus far been driven by Western innovation, with plant-based burgers from
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat a particularly big success. These companies have won
multiple awards for their leadership in climate action, and made waves in restaurants, in retail,
and in the stock market. But burgers are unlikely to be the hero category in a country where
poultry demand reigns supreme. Meanwhile, the talent pool and manufacturing capacity for our
sector remain areas of both challenge and opportunity, with allied industries such as food
processing and biopharmaceuticals lending a hand in the talent base, but more work on
upskilling and infrastructure sorely needed.
As we forge ahead and partner with Indian large food and meat companies, entrepreneurs,
scientists, governments, and investors, we’re heartened by the success of the Future of Protein
Summit 2.0, and cognizant that a great deal of work still remains to be done to unlock the
business potential of alternative protein in the country.
“The author, Varun Deshpande, is Managing Director at the Good Food Institute India - a non-profit which builds and accelerates the alternative protein sector. You can get in touch with Varun and the GFI India team at firstname.lastname@example.org.”