New opportunities to arise for the European plant protein market, suggests a study published by the European Commission today. The study concludes that the increased consumer demand for organic and genetically modified (GM)-free supply chains, combined with a rise in the number of flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets will expand markets for pulses and processed plant proteins. Given this potentially favourable environment, the report analysed the effect of current EU policy measures under the common agricultural policy (CAP) and made a number of suggestions on potential policy initiatives to encourage the sector’s growth.
Though global demand is growing, the EU currently produces a relatively small volume of the plant proteins destined for use in animal feed. This is primarily because of the comparative competitiveness of soya beans in the market place, especially for feed, and the lack of good climatic conditions for the growth of soya within the EU. However, changing patterns of consumer demand, with an increased focus on GM-free feeds could open up new options for European farmers in the coming years.
This pattern of changing consumer demand affecting the market for plant proteins in feed has also been seen in food markets where there has been considerable innovation over the last ten years. This is in response to growing demand for both vegan/vegetarian products and gluten free foodstuffs. Despite the small scale of the market compared to feed (only 6% of all plant proteins end up as food products), the added value of these products tends to be considerably higher, presenting opportunities for European producers.
Furthermore, as food is a consumer driven market place there is increased emphasis on the quality of supply. When combined with growing consumer emphasis on shorter supply chains and local food, a trend that is particularly prevalent in Western Europe, there are potential benefits for European producers.
The study also considered the impact of EU policies under the CAP, namely greening and voluntary coupled support, on the market for plant proteins. It concluded that though neither measures had a negative impact on their production, the positive impacts of the policies on the production of plant proteins was unlikely to be very significant when compared to the impact of global market forces.
Though the study could not make specific policy recommendation, it suggested that EU efforts to promote the production of European plant proteins should instead focus their efforts on innovation and the provision of the infrastructure needed for storage, segregation, sorting and de-hulling of plant proteins without relying on fossil fuels. These investments could be combined with better market data and information exchange to help researchers and farmers to better develop and market plant protein products.
25 February 2019