Meet the Smart Protein Partners: GFI’s main aim is to mainstream alternative proteins


The Good Food Institute (GFI) is an international nonprofit organization building a sustainable, healthy, and just food system. With unique insight across the scientific, policy, industry, and investment landscapes, GFI is using the power of food innovation and markets to accelerate the transition of the world’s food system toward alternative proteins.

One of the ways GFI fulfills its mission is through partnerships with forward-thinking researchers, universities, and companies. To drive sustainable alternative protein innovation, GFI collaborates on projects focused on creating high-quality plant-based foods that consumers want to eat and can afford to buy.

This is why GFI is excited to be a part of the Smart Protein project. Together with more than 30 other academic, corporate, and nonprofit partners across 21 countries, GFI will help develop the next generation of smart protein food through the Smart Protein project.

We have great opportunities for innovation.

“Our current food system largely relies on only about 15 crops. And the existing options for alternative proteins have been constrained by the supply chains and infrastructure already in place,” says GFI Director of Science and Technology David Welch.

“Put another way: protein innovation has been significantly influenced by what ingredients are already widely available, rather than driven purely by what crops or ingredients would be optimal for functionality, efficiency, and sustainability.”

Catalyzing alternative protein research

GFI’s scientists are the global authorities in the science of animal-free meat, egg, and dairy. Every day, they work to develop, fund, and promote essential open-access science to advance these alternative proteins. Our experts ensure that an explicit scientific roadmap exists for animal-free meat, egg, and dairy; that the world’s best scientists are engaged in plant-based and cultivated meat research and development; and that significant funds are directed toward scientific endeavors to transform agriculture away from the industrial farming of animals.

Through analytical work identifying scientific bottlenecks and opportunities, GFI’s Science & Technology team is working towards many of the objectives of the Smart Protein Project. Specifically, GFI’s Science and Technology team focuses on developing new protein isolates and concentrates (objective 2), advancing fermentation (objectives 3 and 4), and characterizing new protein sources for use in alternative protein products (objective 5).

Building a global innovation ecosystem for alternative proteins

GFI’s global and cross-sectoral approach gives our teams a unique, industry-wide view of alternative proteins around the world. Our scientists and corporate engagement specialists work together to determine the areas with the highest potential for impact, enabling both existing companies and new startups to identify and take advantage of market opportunities. Our affiliate offices—GFI Asia-Pacific, GFI Brazil, GFI Europe, GFI India, and GFI Israel—work closely in our programmatic areas of science and technology, policy, and corporate engagement to ensure that the alternative protein industry advances strategically.

By working with everyone from farmers, suppliers, and manufacturers to groceries, food service, and restaurants, GFI is also advancing other Smart Protein objectives. These include understanding the relevant characteristics of quinoa, fava beans, lentils, and chickpea (objective 1), advance the commercialization of new products (objectives 6 and 8), increasing understanding of potential markets (objective 9), and collaborating to demonstrate industrial-level production (objective 10).

Image from Good Food Institute

Leveling the regulatory playing field for alternative protein companies

Current and future regulations impact how animal-free meat, eggs, and dairy are able to compete on the market. Often, policies put animal-free meat, eggs, and dairy at a disadvantage in the marketplace. Our policy experts work with regulatory agencies and other nonprofit organizations around the world to ensure that alternative protein ingredients have a clear path to market.

There are many ways by which GFI’s policy experts around the world advance objective 7. This includes working closely with regulators to explain the many food-safety, allergenicity, and sustainability benefits of animal-free meat, eggs, and dairy. We also build alliances to oppose legislation and rules that would put alternative proteins at a disadvantage (e.g., label censorship). Finally, our Policy Team works with legislators and agencies at all levels to increase research funding into sustainable protein production.

Mainstreaming alternative proteins

With limited time and funding to address the climate crisis, accelerating antibiotic resistance, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity, it is crucial to allocate resources where they will have the greatest impact. The Smart Protein project is a unique and welcome opportunity for GFI to collaborate with both industry and academia to identify novel solutions to climate change that also address global food security and sustainable agriculture. GFI is honored to participate in this landmark initiative.

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