VALPRO Path, the plant protein revolution in Europe

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VALPRO Path

European plant protein production faces significant challenges related to environmental sustainability and import dependency. The ‘new VALue landscapes for plant PROtein Pathways’ (VALPRO Path) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme, aims to overcome these issues through innovation in plant protein value chains. (1)

The European vegetable protein market

The European market of vegetable proteins shows signs of robust growth, despite the (unsuccessful) initiatives against ‘meat sounding’, i.e. the use of meat names to name plant products. (2,3)

Consumer interest for products that not only replicate the appearance and taste of their animal counterparts but also offer additional environmental and nutritional benefits, such as a high content of Omega 3, proteins, iron and vitamin B12, drives the sales of plant-based drinks, alternative products to meat and plant-based ice cream.

Revenue quadrupled by 2030

Bloomberg research predicts that the global value of plant proteins could quadruple by 2030, reaching $162 billion, up from $44 billion today. (4)

The Italian market of plant-based foods is the third largest in Europe (after Germany and the United Kingdom) with turnover increasing by +21% to 680,9 million euros between 2020 and 2022. (5)

European production of vegetable proteins
Table 1. Plant-based category euro sales summary overview across Europe, 2022 [Source: GFI Europe]

VALPRO Path, the project

The scenery bears witness to the urgency of a rapid improvement in European production of vegetable proteins. To this end, the VALPRO Path project aims to reinvent and improve production practices.

A key element is the use of ‘living labs’, where farmers, researchers and businesses collaborate to experiment with new practices and business models. The laboratories are located in five different European areas – in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Denmark – each with its own climatic and production specificities.

Expected innovations and impacts

VALPRO Path aims to explore sustainable options for crop diversification, with a particular focus on high-protein legumes. The project aims to demonstrate the environmental, economic and social benefits of plant protein production, contributing to the transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices.

The introduction of innovative technologies and varietal selection based on regional adaptability and nutritional benefits are among the approaches adopted. Furthermore, the project explores the reduction of environmental impact through the valorization of by-products, upcycling and the optimization of distribution networks.

Product valorisation

The commitment of the VALPRO Path project towards sustainability is not limited to agricultural production but also extends to the valorisation of products and their marketing.

We’re doing a study on the packaging to verify the possibility of reducing the materials and increasing the shelf life of the product‘, explains Marco Berardo Di Stefano, President of the Social Farms Network, member of the National Observatory of Social Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and partner of the VALPRO Path project with the Fattoria Solidale del Circeo. (6)

Benefits for everyone

In line with the objectives of the Farm to Fork strategy and the European Green Deal, VALPRO Path aims to reduce dependence on feed imports through innovative, equitable and sustainable solutions.

Further benefit comes from the planned inclusion of social agriculture. A driving force for generating employment in a crucial sector for the growth of fairer and more sustainable food systems.

Gabriele Sapienza

Footnotes

(1) VALPRO Path https://valpropath.eu/innovation-production-systems/

(2) Dario Dongo. ‘Synthetic meat’ and ‘meat sounding’, the Italian law self-extinguishes. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.2.24

(3) Dario Dongo, Marta Strinati. Meat sounding, the word to the EU Court of Justice. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.8.23

(4) Plant-based Foods Market to Hit $162 Billion in Next Decade, Projects Bloomberg Intelligence. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/company/press/plant-based-foods-market-to-hit-162-billion-in-next-decade-projects-bloomberg-intelligence/

(5) Market insights on European plant-based sales 2020-2022. GFI Europe. https://gfieurope.org/market-insights-on-european-plant-based-sales-2020-2022/

(6) https://www.fattoriasolidaledelcirceo.com/

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Graduated in Agronomy, with experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, laboratory and ecological monitoring.

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