with Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada, the nation’s plant-based protein Supercluster

Who is Protein Industries Canada?

Protein Industries Canada (PIC) is an industry-led, not-for-profit organization created to position Canada as a global source of high-quality plant protein and plant-based co-products. We are one of Canada’s five innovation Superclusters. NGen is one of our colleague Superclusters, tasked with driving advanced manufacturing.

PIC works with private sector industry partners to create co-investment projects that have the potential to transform the agriculture and food production sector, allowing Canada to secure our position as a global leader in the production of plant-based products and co-products.

The goal of the Supercluster is to challenge Canadian businesses to collaborate with other businesses, and post-secondary and research institutions to create projects that have the potential to transform the food processing sector in Canada, creating jobs and stimulating local economies.

What is the market outlook for the plant-based food sector?

The global demand for protein is growing, with the demand for plant-based foods and ingredients seeing a particularly sharp increase. This presents a unique opportunity for Western Canada, due largely to the area’s natural resources.

According to a report by Ernst and Young and commissioned by Protein Industries Canada, the global market for plant-based food and ingredients is expected to rise to $250 billion by 2035. Much of these foods and ingredients will be made from crops grown, and potentially processed, in Western Canada, particularly pea, canola, oat and pulses.

It looks very promising for the crops that we produce at scale here in Western Canada. Consumers want choice, and these diverse sets of plant-based ingredients that we can create from the crops we produce give that choice.”

How much of the market will Canadian producers be able to serve?

The Ernst and Young report estimates global demand for crops used in meat-alternative products could grow to anywhere between 41 million and 66 million metric tonnes by 2035. Because of Western Canada’s strong agriculture footing, we expect the country could supply the ingredients for approximately 10 per cent of the world’s plant-based food and ingredients by 2035, including alternatives to dairy, eggs and seafood.

If we look at what the overall size of what the plant-based foods market will be by 2035, we think that that’s going to be about a $250 billion market. It’s reasonable that Canada can achieve 10 per cent of that overall global market share, so $25 billion in annual sales. Just for context setting, today Canada is about 3.3 per cent of the global agrifood market. So, we think we can punch well above our weight.

What will it take for Canada to get to there?

Fulfilling this potential will take some strategic work over the next 10 to 15 years. Already Canada’s plant-based food sector and its supporters have begun investing in the area, through increased processing, research into new crop types and higher protein varieties, and development of new on-farm technologies.

They have also worked together to develop The Road to $25 Billion, a strategic roadmap that outlines goals and actions the sector needs to collaboratively achieve in order to reach its global market goals. The actions within the roadmap centre on the areas of innovating, scaling, and prospering, with a focus on increasing processing capacity within Canada, including the Prairie Provinces. This increase in infrastructure will lead not only to new products for consumers to enjoy, but also an increase in new jobs, increased GDP among local economies, and opportunities for new and existing SMEs to establish and scale their operations.

What sort of competition are we facing, or will we face?

While this work puts us on a good base moving forward, there’s plenty more to do. Other countries are also investing significant resources into their plant-based food and ingredient sectors, with this investment expected to rise over the next five to seven years. Importantly, some of those countries are starting out with sectors already competitive with Canada’s.

Their reason for investing is the same as ours: The plant-based food and ingredients market isn’t going to disappear. It’s a lifestyle built not only on population growth, but also the growing consumer desire to balance convenience with protecting the environment, maintaining human health, and protecting animal welfare.

These as underpinning market forces—not fads, not trends. They’re long-term, sustainable forces that are going to drive the growth.