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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

meaningful connections.

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”

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