Article Summary: With the world’s focus now on sustainability, health and other environmental impacts, the demand for plant-based food has skyrocketed, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. The plant-based farming sector is rising, with new players entering the market and established companies expanding their plant-based offerings. Will plant-based dairy save the planet or threaten the livelihoods of farmers in the region? In this article, we discuss the history of plant-based foods and production processes to opportunities for dairy farmers to turn this emerging market into an opportunity.
As the world becomes more conscious of the environmental impact of food production, plant-based diets are on the rise, leaving farmers in Australia and New Zealand wondering if their traditional dairy farms are at risk. Will plant-based dairy save the planet or threaten the livelihoods of farmers in the region?
In this article, we’ll cover everything from the history of plant-based foods and production processes to opportunities for dairy industries worldwide to turn this emerging market into an opportunity.
The Emergence of Plant-Based Food
With the world’s focus now on sustainability, health and other environmental impacts, the demand for plant-based food has skyrocketed, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. The plant-based farming sector is rising, with new players entering the market and established companies expanding their plant-based offerings.
Leading Figures and Studies
According to a study by the University of Oxford, plant-based diets could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70%.
Leading plant-based dairy companies in the region include Sanitarium, which produces soy and almond milk, and Nuttelex, which makes dairy-free margarine.
The popularity of plant-based diets has even led to the emergence of vegan cheese companies like Daiya Foods, which has recently expanded into the Australian and New Zealand markets.
Plant-based food has been around for centuries, but it's only in recent years that it has gained mainstream popularity as more people look for healthy, sustainable, and ethical alternatives to traditional animal-based foods.
The idea of using plants to create meat or dairy alternatives can be traced back to the 9th century when Chinese Taoist monks reportedly used wheat gluten to make mock meat dishes.
Fast forward to the 1800s, a vegetarian movement emerged in Europe and North America, which spurred the development of plant-based alternatives to animal products. And in more recent times (the 20th century), companies began experimenting with creating meat substitutes. Blending soy protein, wheat gluten, and other plant-based ingredients in the form of TVP (textured vegetable protein), impossible meat, veggie burgers, and felafels, which most of us enjoy today.
In recent years, advances in food technology and the rise of the plant-based food industry have led to the development of highly realistic meat and dairy alternatives that are almost indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts.
Processes Involved in Producing Meat or Dairy-Free Alternatives:
There are a variety of different methods used to produce plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, depending on the specific product and manufacturer. Some common methods include:
Extrusion: High-moisture extrusion processing involves using a machine to mix and heat ingredients, which are then extruded through a die to create a meat-like texture. It is used in the processing of meat-free substitutes and seafood alternatives.
Fermentation: Some companies use microbial fermentation to create plant-based proteins that can make meat alternatives. Traditional fermentation can help maximise the flavour, texture, nutritional value and digestibility of plant-based alternatives, including dairy, eggs and meat.
Culturing: Similar to fermentation, some companies use cell cultures (taken from a living animal) to produce animal-free meat in laboratories that are biologically identical to traditional meat.
Blending: Many plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are made by blending different plant-based proteins, such as soy, pea, or wheat protein, along with other ingredients like oils, starches, and flavourings.
Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives require fewer resources to produce than traditional animal-based products. For example, producing one kilogram of beef can require up to 20,000 litres of water, while producing the same amount of soy protein requires only about 2,000 litres. Plant-based foods have a lower carbon footprint and can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Comparing the plant-based food sector with the dairy industry in Australia and New Zealand
In recent years, the plant-based food sector in Australia and New Zealand has been growing rapidly, with an increasing number of consumers choosing to switch to plant-based alternatives. However, the dairy industry in both countries remains a significant contributor to their economies, with a combined annual revenue of over AUD 13 billion. So, how do these two sectors compare, and what opportunities does the rise of plant-based food present for the dairy industry?
Here are some figures and statistics to help provide context:
The plant-based food market in Australia is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% between 2020 and 2025, with a similar growth rate projected for New Zealand.
In 2020, the plant-based milk market in Australia was worth AUD 224 million, with almond milk accounting for over half of the market share.
In the same year, the Australian dairy industry was valued at AUD 4.4 billion, with milk accounting for most of the sector's revenue.
While the plant-based food sector is still relatively small compared to the dairy industry, the rise of plant-based milk alternatives poses a threat to the dairy industry's market share.
What can the dairy industry do to turn this threat into an opportunity?
Here are some potential strategies:
Diversify: While milk may be the primary revenue stream for the dairy industry, diversifying their product offerings to include plant-based alternatives could help capture a share of the growing plant-based food market.
Innovate: Investing in research and development to create new dairy products with added health benefits or unique flavour profiles could help differentiate dairy products from plant-based alternatives.
Educate: Communicating the benefits of dairy products, such as their high nutritional value and their role in supporting local farmers and economies, could help build consumer loyalty and drive demand.
Collaborate: Working with plant-based food companies to create hybrid products that combine the benefits of dairy and plant-based alternatives could help capture a new market segment.
Ultimately, the rise of plant-based food is a challenge for the dairy industries of Australia and New Zealand, but it also presents an opportunity for innovation and growth. By adopting a proactive approach and exploring new strategies to meet changing consumer preferences, the dairy industry can continue to thrive and remain a vital part of these countries' economies.
The future of plant-based diets and dairy demand for farmers
The rise of plant-based diets is a global trend, and it is expected to continue growing in popularity in Australia and New Zealand while people switch to perceived healthier diets.
While the demand for traditional dairy products may decrease, the industry is not threatened. If you’re a dairy farmer, you can still adapt to the changing market by diversifying your offerings or exploring plant-based alternatives.
Plant-based dairy could be an opportunity for you as a farmer, as you can use your existing infrastructure and expertise to produce and sell plant-based milk.
The emergence of plant-based food and the plant-based farming sector in Australia and New Zealand may seem perplexing, but it presents both a challenge and an opportunity for farmers. While the demand for traditional dairy products may decrease, there is still a market for dairy, and you can adapt to the changing landscape in several ways. Plant-based diets are here to stay, and it's up to all dairy and livestock farmers to decide how to approach this new era in food production.
Until we meet again, Happy Dairying!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-02-23