Flexitarian trend creates opportunity

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Cally DupeCountryman
Global food trends speaker David Hughes addresses audiences at the conference.
Camera IconGlobal food trends speaker David Hughes addresses audiences at the conference. Credit: Cally Dupe

A leading food trend researcher says worldwide demand for plant-based protein is at an all-time high as consumers adopt “flexitarian” eating habits.

Imperial College of London food marketing professor David Hughes said meat substitutes presented business opportunities Western Australian farmers.

He said global demand for well-marketed “super foods”, including spelt, sorghum, millet, quinoa and chia were expected to rise.

“I’ve never seen such an interest in protein which is not meat,” Mr Hughes said.

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“It’s a fundamental shift in how people look at their plates … is the world going vegetarian, no, not necessarily, but there is a shift.

“It’s very threatening for the meat industry in the developed world… but it is very good for plant-based foods.”

WA’s export industry already includes some of the crops labelled in Mr Hughes’ speech, with quinoa, chia and sorghum grown successfully in Kununurra.

Mr Hughes was one of a handful of international speakers at the Grains Research Development Corporation grains research updates in Perth last month.

While meat production has tripled during the past 40 years, concerns have been raised about how to feed the global population is it climbs to 8.5 billion by 2100.

Mr Hughes said a consumption trend to “go meat-free” a few nights per week, coined the “flexitarian” way of eating, was on the rise.

He said Asian markets, similar to Australian markets, consumers wanted to recognise items on an ingredient list.

“Something big is going on out there and consumers have a strong preference for foods that are intrinsically healthy,” Mr Hughes said.

“They much prefer for the product to be intrinsically good, you don’t have to add anything to it, or take anything from it, its just good.”

Mr Hughes countries including China, India, and Pakistan were “eating more meat”, while others, including France and Germany, were being urged to eat less.

“Its partly about supply events but its also about demand events, increasingly there are demand events that circle around one or two countries,” Mr Jackson said.

“One country being China, where you get 1.3 billion people whose incomes are changing and their diets are changing.

“If they change to eat more or less of what you produce it can have a huge impact on the overall market.”

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