Farmers across all sectors must be prepared for a major shake-up in the protein world as consumer habits continue to change.
While the public’s insatiable appetite for protein shows no sign of slowing down, people are not necessarily demanding traditional meat sources as part of their diet, according to leading food marketing professor David Hughes.
Speaking at the Worshipful Company of Farmers annual lecture in London, Prof Hughes highlighted the rise in plant-based protein and foods, and ‘stealth veg’, which was increasingly being added to food such as yoghurt, sausages and meatballs.
He highlighted Debbie and Andrew’s ‘Flexilicious high protein’ sausages, which were launched by ABP Food Group earlier this year and tapped into the Flexitarian trend, where diets are plant-based with occasional consumption of meat.
“People are wanting more protein, without more meat,” Prof Hughes told the lecture at Plasterers Hall.
But while arable farmers should look to cash in on this increasing demand and work to access new markets, livestock farmers should concentrate on their point of difference.
He predicted a ‘slanging match’ in the future, between ‘industrially produced’ chicken which had a feed conversion rate of 1.5kg of feed to 2kg chicken and industrially produced fish which had a rate of about 1kg to 1kg.
“So there is this great tussle going on,” he added.
“Beef and lamb are minority meats. And we should celebrate that. Our beef and lamb should be nowhere near that in the market place and should not compete with that.”
He said it was not enough for UK producers to promote ‘high quality, high welfare’ foodstuffs, as other countries were doing it better.
He pointed to Thailand, where customers used quick response (QR) codes to check meat was ‘free from things’, such as hormones, generic modification, salmonella and campylobacter.
He said: “The Asian market is very good at understanding the health benefits and attributes of the food they eat, for example a squash might be marketed as ‘good for eyesight’.”
The same was also happening in the grains and oilseeds market, with products marketed as ‘high fibre’ and ‘low gluten’ barley, ‘omega-3’ canola oil and BarleyMax, a blend of raw organic barley and alfalfa.
“People will see there is a margin to be had from these high attribute products,” said Prof Hughes, adding shorter food chains and provenance were important to consumers and a ‘big selling point’ for food retailers.