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The Future of Food is Already Here – India’s Critical Role in Protein Innovation

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

The global food system has always benefited immensely from science and technology to serve billions the calories they need, and the private sector has played a critical role in its progress. As we continue to examine and re-examine the way the world currently derives its nutrients, some patterns and opportunities for progress immediately emerge. One sector which is patently ripe for transformative innovation is the global protein sector – in particular, meat production. As demand for meat continues to skyrocket over the next decades, driven primarily by growth in countries like India, the enduring question may be – how are we going to feed 9.7 billion people globally by 2050, through systems that do not adversely impact planetary health, scarce natural resources, and public health?




Continuing to use animals as production platforms for meat, eggs, and dairy, may not be the answer, given their inefficiencies; growing crops to feed animals, and then feeding those animals and their products to humans, is simply too taxing on land and water use, on climate change, on antibiotic resistance, and on biodiversity. This is particularly problematic in India, with our considerable issues of malnutrition, iron-deficiency anemia, and stunting. Addressing these issues demands visionary leadership and product innovation. At the Good Food Institute, we’re focused on providing innovative solutions to this enormous challenge, underpinned by technology and partnerships with the world’s largest food and meat companies. And we believe the answer lies in the categories of food which are remaking meat, without sacrificing any of its taste – namely, plant-based and cell-based meat.


Plant-based meats are making a splash globally - huge multinationals, dynamic entrepreneurs, visionary investors, and restaurants ranging from fancy Michelin-starred to fast-food mainstream are serving up plant protein goodness. These foods look, feel, taste, and even ‘bleed’ just like conventional meat from animals, but are made entirely from plant ingredients such as grains, cereals, and vegetables. They contain no cholesterol or antibiotics, and are much better for the environment. Meanwhile, cell-based meat uses the methods of tissue engineering to grow animal meat directly from cells, without raising and slaughtering animals. These foods have the potential to tackle the urgent issues of malnutrition affordably and sustainably by delivering protein and micronutrients at scale, satisfying consumer demand without the challenges of animal agriculture. Companies in this sector like Memphis Meats, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from visionary investors and strategic partners like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Tyson Foods, and Cargill, have won sustainability awards from the UN, and are inspiring competition from the world’s biggest food companies.


Clearly, the world is embracing the future of protein - and India has a huge role to play in its development. As a global independent non-profit focused on building the sector, we are immensely bullish on Indian businesses’ ability to contribute to its growth and profit from its success. Indian food companies should be competing for global supply chains for plant-based protein and ingredients, and diversifying the raw materials in the plant protein sector. Indigenous crops like millets can create an explosion in the variety of plant protein foods globally, either as isolates or when blended with the more commonplace wheat and soy protein. And just as the Indian biopharmaceutical industry has been a huge beneficiary of global demand, Indian business can be the production hub for cell-based meat around the world.


Our work with the scientific and business community here in India has been hugely encouraging thus far – we have partnered with the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Mumbai to set up the world’s first government-mandated research center for cell-based meat, with Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad for further cell-based meat research, and with the Maharashtra Co-operative Development Corporation (MCDC) to source raw materials for Indian and global companies preparing plant-based protein products.with the breathtaking pace of technological innovation in this sector, we believe India can be one of the first countries in the world to build a more healthy, sustainable, and just protein production system, by side-stepping the challenges of animal agriculture altogether. We welcome further partnership with Indian businesses, scientists, and entrepreneurs looking to build the future of food.


The Good Food Institute is a global non-profit network based in India, the United States, Brazil, Israel, China, and the UK. We work directly with entrepreneurs, corporations, scientists, governments, and foundations, on plant-based and cell-based solutions to build the future of food. You can connect with us at varund@gfi.org.

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