Food for Thought: The untapped climate opportunity in alternative proteins

By Boston Consulting Group   

Features BCG blog Boston Consulting Group CO2 emissions Food for Thought proteins survey

Give credit to the consumer. Our latest research shows that people around the world are buying into alternative proteins — and are very happy with what they find.

The market share projections that we made in our first Food for Thought report in 2021 are bearing out: current forecast models indicate that alternative proteins will represent 11% of all protein consumption by 2035, and with some help from technology, investors, and regulators, alternative proteins could command 22% of the global market over this time frame.

This is good news for everyone involved in the global effort to combat climate change. The food system accounts for 26% of current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Animal agriculture, the largest GHG emitter within the food system, is responsible for 15% of global emissions, roughly matching the emissions from the transportation sector.

If we remain on track for an 11% share for alternative proteins by 2035, we will see a reduction of 0.85 gigaton of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) worldwide by 2030 — equal to decarbonizing 95% of the aviation industry. In comparison with other solutions, such as flying less or retrofitting existing housing stock, the economic and individual consumer trade-offs involved in shifting to alternative proteins are relatively small.

Our survey shows that consumers understand this: more than 30% of consumers consider having a major positive impact on climate to be a primary reason to switch to alternative proteins.

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