Animal-free proteins: A bright outlook and a to-do list (BCG report)

by FGH1 min read28th Mar 20212 comments

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Animal product alternativesEffective ThesisSocially responsible investingCultured meatFarmed animal welfare
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This post points to a report I have co-authored as part of my job at Boston Consulting Group. The content of this post, however, reflects my personal views and not those of my employer.

Alternative proteins have reached the mainstream in 2021 - many major fast-food outlets feature animal-free versions of their food, and products like almond milk are household staples. In a recent report, titled Food For Thought: The Protein Transformation (short version and long version), Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon estimate that the market for alternative proteins will grow to 97 million metric tons per year by 2035, when it will make up 11% of the overall protein market. Faster technological innovation and greater regulatory support could speed growth to 22% by 2035.

This is a bright outlook: At 11% of all protein, alternatives would be worth $290 billion a year in 2035 - roughly the size of Finland’s GDP today. The promise of this market is attracting significant capital. Plant-based, microorganism-based, and animal cell-based proteins are being developed in universities, start-ups and large food companies.

And there is a to-do list: The report describes what needs to happen to get to 11%, and further to 22% of meat, seafood, eggs and dairy eaten globally every day. Current technology must be refined and scaled, and in some areas, step changes are needed. For instance, optimized protein crops for human consumption need to be bred, and microorganisms as well as animal cells grown on low-cost feedstocks. Regulatory support, such as carbon taxes on meat or subsidies for farmers who are shifting from animal agriculture to alternative proteins, could further boost growth.

Check out the report to find out more, and drop me a note if you have questions! I do work at BCG, so I may take a few days to respond, but I'll aim to get back to everyone.

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Thanks for sharing this!

How did you end up getting the chance to produce this report? Is this the sort of thing you typically work on at BCG, or was some kind of "flex time" involved? 

If it is the sort of thing you typically work on, were you hired for that work, or did you make your way into that area after being hired?

This is the first case I've seen of someone familiar with EA working in an elite consulting firm and focusing on a core EA cause area. I wonder if this is a path other would-be consultants might be able to follow? (Though I'm not sure what range of EA-ish topics are also consulting-ish topics.)

my pleasure :)

In this case, it was a client project with Blue Horizon, so for a while it actually was my job to work on this report. That said, within three years at BCG, this is the first time I work on something so closely EA-related. I am putting in quite a bit of "flex time" now that the report is published and I am staffed on a different topic, to position myself for more work in this space.

I was hired as a generalist consultant after my biotech PhD, so I usually do a lot of pharma work, and some cases in other sectors. I made my way into this project by reaching out to the partners who had the client relationship - lots of internal networking, which is the usual way for consultants to get staffed on cases they want.

As to how replicable this sort of step may be for other EA-aligned management consultants, I think there are a lot of moving parts that need to "click" together: I had the biotech background, the right level of experience, I was free at the right time, I found out about the case and I had support from my network. If you need this kind of thing to  happen within three years to be satisfied with your choice of going into consulting, it seems like an overly risky bet. As part of a portfolio of reasons to go into consulting, next to great personal fit, it seems fine. To increase the odds, the key factor is your network - there are now EA groups at all of the major firms; happy to point anyone already working there in the right direction.