Lionel Kambeitz On Why Plant-Based Food Took Off In 2021

Published on

For investors around the world, plant-based foods are now on the menu.

The industry has expanded fast in 2021, showing signs of growth that suggest it will become a major new segment of agriculture and a significant economic driver.

The U.S. plant-based foods market is expected to reach $10.7 billion by 2027, according to a report from Research and Markets. By 2030, the industry could reach $161.9 billion in value, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s a 355% increase compared to 2021, and an even larger increase over 2020, when the plant-based food industry in the U.S. was valued at $5.6 billion.

There are many reasons for the sudden explosion of the plant-based food industry, but some of the primary catalysts include changing dietary habits among consumers, improved food technology, and economic and political motivators, like climate change, said Lionel Kambeitz, the co-founder of Above Food Corp.

Kambeitz’ family has been farming in Canada for five generations, and he had founded several food companies before deciding to start plant-based food company Above Food. That’s because he sees the necessity of updating the industry to reflect modern (and future) dietary habits.

“Most people now know to one degree or another that many of the biggest agriculture operations just aren’t sustainable in the long-term,” Kambeitz said. “We see an opportunity to grow crops sustainably while also crafting higher-quality food products that consumers want to eat.”

While there are many factors driving agriculture toward plant-based foods, the most important has simply been the change in consumer behavior. That change is a result of increased awareness about both health and the environment, Kambeitz said.

A global survey by Veggly found that of 8,500 respondents, more than 50 percent were vegan for health reasons. At the same time, consumers have become more aware of environmental issues surrounding meat. Many people now understand that plant-based diets help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Veggly survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents were also vegan for environmental and sustainability reasons.

“You can’t deny those numbers,” Kambeitz said. “People are concerned. They want to make a difference. They want to do something about climate concerns, and they know that changes to the agricultural industry can make that difference — so there’s little doubt in my mind that this movement will continue to grow.”

However, consumers have also grown accustomed to delicious, quality food products. Just offering a plant-based product isn’t enough — it has to be good.

More consumers have begun holding plant-based products to higher standards, according to Kerry Digest, which said more people expect plant-based foods that are nutritious, have quality proteins, and low sodium.

That’s exactly what Above Food aims to achieve with its food products, Kambeitz said. The big challenge isn’t actually making plant-based food taste good, but making it just as nutritious as its meaty equivalent.

“The reality is that the technology to make great-tasting plant-based meat is already here,” Kambeitz said. “The real competition is in creating plant-based food that’s just as nutritious.”

The answer to that conundrum means going back to the essentials of agriculture: growing high-quality crops. Kambeitz said Western Canada is primed to produce some of the most nutrient-dense plant-based crops anywhere.

“This is a very specific and powerful moment, and there’s a growing awareness of that,” he said. “This trend isn’t going anywhere. The question is what we do about it, as consumers and as entrepreneurs in the food industry.”

As the impact of climate change becomes clearer around the world, plant-based foods will only have a larger share of the global market.