General Mills exec ‘bullish’ on plant proteins, eyes algae and even crickets

[USA] Expect to see more plant-based proteins, algae and meat-mimicking products (even faux burgers) on your plate and in your grocery store in the future.

Alternative foods dominated the discussion at Rethink’s Future Food-Tech conference today in Manhattan, where figuring out how to feed everyone on the planet as the global population explodes was an overriding theme. And startups aren’t the only ones concerned about developing alternative food sources. One of the panelists discussing “The Future of Animal-based and Alternative Protein” was Erika Smith, technology director at General Mills (NYSE: GIS).

“It’s pretty clear based on all the information we have: the [global] population will be 9.5 billion by 2050 and our food demand expected to increase by 70 percent by then,” Smith said. “We know that our land and water resources are limited. Unless there is a huge innovation in the animal protein space, we’re going to have to rely on plant proteins. We need to position ourselves to be competitive in the space, as we’re looking at the alternatives.”

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General Mills first looks at what the consumer wants, and decides on products via that lens, she says. That said, the company is “bullish on plant proteins,” and interested in technologies surrounding, for example, the use of algae in food products, she said. It is also aware of insect consumption in other parts of the world, especially, including the use of crickets as a more sustainable source of protein. (One New York company recently raised $4 million for a protein bar made of cricket powder.)


Photo: Erika Smith, technology director at General Mills (center), joins (from left) Ory Zik of Lux Research and Bruce Friedrich of New Crop Capital at the Future Food-Tech conference. Teresa Novellino

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