Protein diversification: a win for people and planet

Posted: 28 July 2023 | | No comments yet

Andy Zynga outlines why protein diversification is an “urgent necessity” in today’s world and why it benefits both people and the planet.


Whether we need to diversify our protein sources is no longer a question; it has become an urgent necessity. With the multifaceted challenges of population growth, climate change, and the increasing burden on nature, we need to rethink the way we produce and consume protein, and innovation is a key part of the answer.

Embracing protein diversification innovation not only provides opportunities to create healthier and more balanced diets, but could also help us achieve a net-zero food system and increase both food security and system resilience.

Healthier diets

Protein diversification can be a catalyst for healthier diets. However, for balance it is important to also consider the nutritional benefits that animal-derived proteins can deliver, as outlined in the recent FAO report ‘Contribution of terrestrial animal source food to healthy diets for improved nutrition and health outcomes’. These facts, notwithstanding excessive consumption of red and processed meat, have been linked with increased risk of bowel cancer, and when not eaten as part of a balanced diet, consumption of meat products laden with unhealthy fats have been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and obesity.1

By broadening our options and incorporating alternative protein sources such as plant-based proteins, cultivated meat and insect protein, we can provide a wider range of healthier (and more sustainable) choices to consumers. Another benefit of protein diversification is that it offers greater solutions for those with dietary restrictions, enabling them to enjoy a more varied and nutritious diet.


Zynga writes that through broadening options and incorporating alternative protein, including insect protein, we can provide a wider range of healthier (and more sustainable) choices to consumers.

Innovopro, for example, has introduced a series of novel chickpea protein products with 70 percent concentrate to the global market. The proprietary technology enables sustainable production and the creation of clean label applications. The products are labelled as ‘free from all’, meaning they are non-allergic, soy and gluten-free and with no additives. A win-win for people and planet!


Sustainable protein

Beyond personal health, protein diversification is a crucial step towards achieving a net-zero future. Livestock production, particularly beef and dairy, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.2 By shifting towards a balance of protein sources, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Plant-based proteins in general require fewer resources and are associated with lower emissions compared to conventional livestock farming.3 Cultivated meat, produced through cellular agriculture, has the potential to revolutionise protein production by drastically reducing land and water requirements while eliminating the need for animal slaughter altogether, but regulatory approval to date means progress varies across the world.

However, cultivated meat gamechangers like Aleph Farms are already making strides in this area, with the recent launch of the world’s first cultivated steak anticipated to launch in Singapore and Israel in late 2023, pending regulatory approvals.

UPSIDE Foods makes history with first consumer sale

The Dutch government also recently released an official letter announcing it will allow the tasting of cultivated meat and seafood products under specified conditions. Is this one step closer to regulatory approval in Europe?

A more resilient, fairer food system

One of the most important benefits of protein diversification is the potential for increased resilience. The impacts of climate change, war and conflict, and other global challenges means food insecurity and injustice are only continuing to grow. Protein diversification could enable us to explore new avenues of protein production that are not only more sustainable and healthier, but also offer greater access to affordable foods for all. Diversifying protein sources could reduce the risks associated with relying heavily on a single commodity and, in times of climate-related disruptions or disease outbreaks, a diversified and balanced protein system could provide resilience and safeguard against food shortages and insecurity.

What’s more, with the rise of technologies like blockchain, we can now better track the journey of our food from farm to fork, ensuring its safety and authenticity. This transparency helps to build trust between consumers and producers, giving them the assurance that their food choices align with their needs and values.

If you found this article informative and engaging, then we have a special invitation for you. Join us at our upcoming event Food Integrity Global, where we dive deeper into the topics discussed here, providing a platform for stimulating conversations and networking opportunities. Experience first-hand the excitement of being part of a dynamic food & bev community passionate about shaping the future of food integrity, safety, and sustainability.

Mark your calendar and be prepared to be inspired. We look forward to welcoming you to an unforgettable event that will leave you with valuable insights and a renewed enthusiasm for the subjects that matter most to you.

Food Integrity Global

17-18 October 2023

Topics covered include: Food safety, Diversity, Food fraud, Sustainability, Microbiology and Labelling

Find out more >> 

Sweden-based Skira has developed a traceability platform for consumer brands, mills and farmers that is making food supply more traceable, sustainable and profitable. The platform provides insights to drive climate impact initiatives and enable incentives towards more sustainably produced crops and proteins by enabling food industry players to take decisions on verified production data, and source their commodities with respect to its level of sustainability.

What next for protein diversification?

Protein diversification innovation has come a long way, but to ensure a fair and efficient transition to more balanced diets, we need collective action and support from all agri-food stakeholders, with the farming community at the centre.

Decision makers must provide incentives for research and development in alternative protein sources and sustainable agriculture and create favourable policies to promote their adoption. As a result, food producers and manufacturers will be able to invest in diversifying their product portfolios and consumers will have greater power in driving change through their purchasing decisions.

It’s never been more important to bring the benefits for people and planet together as we look ahead to the future of protein production and consumption.

At recent food events I’ve had the privilege of tasting some of the latest protein alternatives, from plant-based seafood to dairy-free cheese, and I am constantly surprised by the delicious products the food innovation community is serving up. May the progress continue!





About the author

Andy Zynga

Dr Andy Zynga, a member of the New Food Advisory Board, is the CEO of EIT Food, the world’s largest food innovation community working to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. Based in Leuven, Belgium, Andy has international experience in food systems, innovation, telecoms and technology services, and a proven track record in building profitable businesses in the US and Europe.