Alternative Proteins Network
A network of research specialists working at the forefront of innovation.

The UK focus for innovation in plant and fungal-based alternative proteins.

Meat and dairy substitutes are some of the fastest growing products in the UK food and drink sector.

We have created a network of research specialists to help ensure the UK continues to be at the forefront of innovation in this market. 

The rise of the alternative proteins sector

Alternative proteins are one of the best ways for the food system to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. Livestock proteins can generate between 2x and 200x more emissions than protein crops such as grains, pulses and nuts .

Sales of meat and dairy substitute products are estimated to grow to £6.8 billion by 2025 globally, and Europe currently has a 37% share of the global market .

The Good Food Institute report that 2021 saw a record investment in capital in the alternative protein sector, with $5bn raised and a record number of investment deals made.

The National Food Strategy – The Plan suggested an investment of £1bn was needed into alternative protein research in order to meet health, climate and nature commitments.

In partnership with the UKRI Transforming Food Production Team, Growing Kent & Medway have published a new report that highlights both the rising demand for alternative protein sources, as well as identifying the challenges facing the sector. The report includes a detailed roadmap for the future of alternative proteins in the UK.

About the Alternative Proteins Network

There is a huge opportunity for innovation and growth in the alternative proteins sector. Our network is bringing new investment and skills to the region, making Kent and Medway the UK focus for innovation in plant and fungal-based alternative proteins.

There are three expert research institutes in Growing Kent & Medway, with incredible capabilities in crop science, fermentation and food innovation. We have also invested in new facilities, with the Biotechnology Hub, Medway Food Innovation Centre and GreenTech Hub for Advanced Horticulture, increasing our research capabilities in Kent for the sector.

We connect networks of funders, businesses, researchers and non-profit organisations to identify opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

If you’re a food and drink business, you can be part of our Alternative Proteins Network and work with leading research experts to help you bring new products to market.

We offer business support services, including 12 hours of free one-to-one mentoring, access to grants and funding, and a Food Accelerator programme for new product development.

R&D Support for the Alternative Proteins Sector

Our network brings together expertise at leading UK research institutes, NIAB, University of Kent and University of Greenwich.

NIAB

Experts in plant-based protein crops, NIAB has in-depth knowledge of pulse crops, such as fava beans, and legumes, including soy and lentil. Their world-leading capabilities in genetics and biotechnology link to the UK’s largest field trials operation. NIAB also offer agronomy support, helping farmers to boost the UK production of protein crops and feedstocks.

NIAB work with leading alternative proteins brands such as Quorn, to understand the biology of the fungus used to make their products. Their research is also looking at the genetics of legumes to increase the number and diversity of climate-smart crops used in the arable rotation.

Areas of expertise:

  • Agronomy
  • Crop physiology
  • Plant breeding
  • Legume research
  • Genomics and gene editing
  • Fungal genetics

Find out more about NIAB’s research into the Fava bean.

University of Greenwich

Food processing and product development are at the heart of the University of Greenwich. The opening of the Medway Food Innovation Centre increases their research capacity with state-of-the-art equipment, some of which is unique to the UK.

These new facilities mean they can rapidly protype new products, take a scientific approach to improving taste and texture, and deliver healthy reformulations – reducing salt and sugar from plant-based food products.

Current projects include improving taste in algae-based products, extracting proteins from seaweed, upcycling plant proteins for meat and cheese alternatives, and looking at opportunities for underused proteins like faba beans.

Areas of expertise:

  • New product development
  • Flavour and sensory analysis
  • Food safety and quality
  • Algae harvesting
  • Plant and algal protein extraction
  • Food processing

University of Kent

Specialists in fungal biology and fermentation, the investment in the Biotechnology Hub at the University of Kent, brings new cutting-edge equipment to the region.

They University of Kent are hosts of the Kent Fungal Group, one of the largest collectives of fungal research in the UK, and they work on a large variety of food-relevant fungi and yeasts. Combined with their expertise in industrial biotechnology, including fermentation, synthetic biology and cell-culture, they are in an ideal position to understand how different fungal strains can be used in protein production. The University of Kent collaborate with a wide range of industrial partners in the food and drink sector, including Wye Vale Hops, Provenance Potatoes and Shepheard Neame.

Areas of expertise:

  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Fermentation
  • Strain development
  • Fungal biology
  • Proteomics
  • Protein expression and purification

What are alternative Proteins? 

Meat and dairy substitutes can be cell-based mycoprotein, laboratory meat, insects or plant-based protein products.

Plant or seaweed
Crops such as legumes, pulses, nuts and grains and algae.

Fermented
Using microbes like yeast or fungi to form, or breakdown products to create proteins.

Cell-based
Creating meat in a laboratory from animal cells.

Novel
Aquaculture, or aquafarming, and insects.

Alternative proteins can be used as a substitute for animal feed, or for direct human consumption. Most alternative protein sources rely on crop production to generate the raw material.

Get in Touch

“Collaborations and partnerships are key to creating a competitive UK alternative proteins sector.”

Parag Acharya, Innovation Growth Manager at Growing Kent & Medway.

If you’re interested in our Alternative Proteins Network and would like to see how we can help you, please get in touch:

Our expert team are on hand to help advance your horticultural agronomy and  research needs.

Parag Acharya, University of Greenwich

[email protected]

Richard Harrison, NIAB

[email protected]

Alessia Buscaino, University of Kent

[email protected]

 

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