From Sustainability to Alternative Proteins: Key Things to Know about Food Innovation

From Sustainability To Alternative Proteins Key Things To Know About Food Innovation

The food system today is facing a series of pressing issues. The increasing food prices, rising cost of living, constraints on food supply, supply chain disruptions, energy consumption, climate change caused by the agri-food system, and other major issues are reshaping food production and driving food innovation.

With the rising consumer demand for more affordable and sustainable food, food companies increasingly turn to innovative food solutions to meet customers’ needs. Some companies are exploring ways to reduce the use of animal products and create more sustainable alternatives that can provide a nutritious diet without compromising on taste or quality. Others are investing in research and development to create healthier, plant-based proteins or cultivated meat that can be used as substitutes for traditional meats.

Food innovation is one of the most rapidly growing markets, and companies that focus on this area have ample opportunities to capitalize on an ever-expanding audience. Take the alternative proteins market as an example. It’s a rapidly growing industry that includes plant- and cell-based proteins and other alternative protein sources (such as fungus, algae, insects, etc). According to the Future Market Insights report, the global alternative proteins market was estimated at USD 73.44 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 496.56 billion in 2032, growing at a CAGR of 18% during the forecast period[1].

Governments and regulatory bodies in various countries are taking steps to move towards a more sustainable future. These initiatives aim to increase the affordable food supply, improve food security, reduce food waste, and reduce climate change’s impact.

This article reviews key issues to help companies understand the food innovation landscape and provide actionable insights for companies seeking to do food innovation.

This article is divided into six sections:

  • What is food innovation?
  • What are the key areas of food innovation?
  • Why is food innovation necessary?
  • How are regulators approaching food innovation?
  • Balancing food innovation and regulatory compliance: what companies should do
  • How RegASK helps companies seeking to do food innovation
Have questions on novel food regulations? Contact RegASK experts

What is food innovation?

Food innovation is using new ideas, technologies, and processes to create or improve existing food products. It is a term used to describe creating new products or processes in the food industry that can improve efficiency, reduce costs, or increase consumer satisfaction. It encompasses a range of activities, from creating new ingredients and formulations to developing new packaging materials. Food innovation brings together different disciplines, such as science, engineering, design, marketing, and regulatory affairs to create innovative solutions that meet the needs of consumers and society.

What are the key areas of food innovation?

This section explores the key areas of food innovation to give you a glimpse of the landscape and how the industry is evolving.

Alternative proteins

As people worldwide become increasingly concerned about the health, environmental, and ethical implications of consuming animal proteins, alternative proteins are emerging as a viable solution.

Alternative proteins are a new wave of plant-based (plant, fungi, algae), lab-cultured, and insect-based options that are alternatives to animal proteins.

Examples of alternative protein sources include:

  • pea protein powder
  • tempeh
  • jackfruitDietary Fibre Food Salad Vegetables
  • seitan
  • textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • quinoa or chia seeds
  • tofu
  • almonds, walnuts, soy protein isolate (SPI)
  • mycoprotein
  • spirulina
  • chlorella
  • crickets
  • grasshopper
  • mealworm

Plant-based meat is gaining global popularity and replacing conventional meat products such as patties and sausages. People have been using tofu or tempeh to create fake meat for thousands of years, and plant-based meat is a natural outgrowth of this trend. Plant-based meat is produced directly from plants by skipping the animal and turning plant ingredients directly into meat[2].

Another type of meat substitute is lab-grown meat, also known as cultivated meat, which is a type of food made through cell culture rather than breeding, unlike conventional or factory-farmed meat. The idea of lab-grown meat is to use a tissue sample from the original animal to grow a slab of muscle fibers. For example, a typical lab-grown burger would be made by taking cells from an actual cow and growing it in a lab to create muscle tissue which can be ground into protein and used to make a patty.

Countries like Singapore, facing food price increases and potential chicken shortages, have set up cultivated chicken facilities to meet food supply demand[3].

Alternative seafood products, although currently a small part of the alternative protein sector, are expanding rapidly and have a big room to grow[4]. In Asia, customers can find popular seafood dishes made from plants, such as plant-based crab cakes, fish fillets, shrimp dumplings, and fish nuggets[5].

Edible insects are already part of the diet of approximately two billion people globally and are most popular in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Edible insects are increasingly being used as an alternative protein source for being affordable, nutritiously high in protein, and sustainable. Currently, four insect species are authorized as novel foods safe for human consumption in the EU market[6].

Insect-based animal feed

Animal feed production accounts for 12% of land-use change and 6% of total GHG emissions from food[7]. Traditional animal feed is becoming increasingly unsustainable. To address this issue, scientists are turning to alternative feed solutions, such as insect-based animal feed. Insects such as black soldier fly are being harvested and processed into feed that provides a high-nutrition value, low-cost, and sustainable option for livestock[8].

Sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging is an important component of food system innovation. Packaging innovation aims to use renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. Sustainable packaging includes bamboo, paperboard, cardboard, glass jars and bottles, compostable bags, and wraps made from cornstarch or plant-based cellulose.

Renewable energy

Energy and the food system are interlinked in a number of ways. Energy is being used for the production and transportation of fertilizers and food. The increase in energy prices will affect food availability and accessibility[9]. The current use of energy in the food and agriculture system is “unsustainable because of the high dependence on fossil fuels and frequent access to energy in developing countries.[10]” The use of renewable energy in food system helps reduce the use of fossil fuel without hampering food security.

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Why is food innovation necessary?

Food innovation has become more important than ever as the world grapples with the effects of climate change, population growth, food supply disruption, and health concerns. From developing alternative protein sources to introducing new packaging materials, food innovators are pushing boundaries to create more sustainable and nutritious solutions that meet global demands. In this section, we will discuss the significance and importance of food innovation.

Enhancing sustainability

The meat industry is a major source of climate change, as the greenhouse gases (GHG) released from meat production and livestock contribute to global warming.Plant Based Meat Burger

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions[11]. Cattle is responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions. In addition, feed production and processing, land use change, enteric fermentation from ruminants, and processing and transportation of animal products are all contributing to GHG emissions.

Innovative foods such as lab-grown meat and plant-based foods help reduce GHG emissions and the impact on climate change. Production of plant-based foods involves farming methods that increase the number of healthy organisms in the soil while reducing emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia. This helps avoid the waste and environmental harms that normally come with raising live animals, such as water consumption, pollution, etc.

Increasing food and nutrition supply

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, and climate disasters such as drought have disrupted the global food supply chain and caused a global food crisis. 345.2 million people are expected to be food insecure in 2023 – more than double the number in 2020[12].

Ending hunger, food security, and improved nutrition are more alarming than ever. By 2030, it’s estimated the world population will reach 8.5 billion[13]. Alternative proteins provide a range of options for those who want to reduce their meat consumption without sacrificing nutrition and taste. These foods are nutritious and can provide various vitamins and minerals essential for good health.

Food innovation can help build a resilient food system, end hunger, significantly cut global emissions, and generate huge economic returns, according to a white paper published by the World Economic Forum Food Systems Initiative and the UN FAO[14].

Potentially enhancing food affordability

Food prices have been increasing globally due to disruptions in food availability and rising energy costs. Climate change and extreme weather events in recent years have reduced crop harvests and food availability. The increase in fuel prices made food and fertilizer transportation more expensive and unaffordable, particularly for people living in developing nations[15].

Food innovation can be one of the measures to address food access and affordability issues. For example, in Singapore where food supplies rely heavily on imports, food innovation can help diversify sources of food supply and increase food choices, reducing the country’s reliance on any single supply source and giving consumers more flexibility to purchase food based on their budgets[16].

However, in the current market, some innovative food products are more expensive than conventional foods. According to a report published by the Good Food Institute, “plant-based meat premiums are even higher when comparing overall prices to conventional meat on a per-pound basis. Nielsen data demonstrates that, on average, plant-based meat is 2x as expensive as beef, more than 4x as expensive as chicken, and more than 3x as expensive as pork per pound.[17]

On the other hand, the costs of innovative foods can drop if producers can resolve scientific and technical hurdles and scale up their production[18]. Take plant-based meat as an example, Liz Specht, director of science and technology at the Good Food Institute, believes that once the industry enters a large-scale production stage, the price of plant-based meat will significantly drop[19].

In conclusion, by developing new technologies in food production, companies hope to reach lower costs and higher efficiency to produce foods being more nutritious and sustainable.

How are regulators approaching food innovation?

The Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is taking a proactive and balanced approach to novel foods including alternative proteins[20].

In 2021, the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) submitted a discussion paper on new food sources and production systems to the 44th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a food standards body. Codex guidelines and standards governing this sector are yet to be made, as issues, challenges, and concerns need to be addressed within the context of a broader strategic discussion before developing such guidance, as suggested by the Good Food Institute[21].

Nonetheless, food regulators in many countries have made regulatory recommendations and guidance to protect consumers from potentially harmful innovative food products. Below is a quick overview of novel food regulations in key countries.

United StatesUpdate Mutual Recognition Agreement Between The U.s. And Eu

In general, nutritive substances use “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) procedures. However, US FDA works with the US Department of Agriculture to create a “regulatory pathway for industry efforts to produce foods made from cultured cells of animals.[22]” Since 2019, FDA’s approach to regulating products derived from cultured animal cells involves a thorough pre-market consultation process and inspections of records and facilities as applicable[23].


Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for national health policy, assesses the safety of all novel foods proposed for sale or advertising in Canada. Manufacturers are required to submit detailed scientific data for review by Health Canada before such foods can be authorized for sale. Detailed requirements for the safety assessment of novel foods can be found in the Guidelines for the Safety Assessment of Novel Foods Derived from Plants and Microorganisms[24].

European Union

EU’s Novel Food Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2015/2283) governs the categorization and authorization of novel foods sold in the EU market. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluates novel food applications and proposes the authorization of novel foods which are found to be safe[25]. EU legislation and EFSA guidance documents outline the scientific information and data required for the safety evaluation of novel foods. These legislation and guidance documents can be found on EFSA’s website, under the section of “Novel food applications: regulations and guidance.[26]


In Australia and New Zealand, novel foods and novel food ingredients are regulated under Standards 1.1.1 and 1.5.1 in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulates novel foods in Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ has a process for assessing and approving novel foods, which includes a pre-market safety assessment.


The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) introduced the novel food regulatory framework in 2019 requiring all novel foods to undergo a rigorous safety assessment before they can be approved for sale. SFA also outlines “Conditions related to Novel Food’” to guide companies on safety assessments[27].


The National Health Commission (NHC) regulates novel foods in China. In 2009, the name “novel foods” was changed to “new food raw materials” under the Food Safety Law. NHC accepts and approves applications for new food raw materials. The regulatory framework for novel foods in China includes legislation and regulations such as the Food Safety Law, Administrative Measures for the Safety Review of New Food Raw Materials, Regulation for Application and Acceptance of New Food Raw Materials, and Safety Review Procedures of New Food Raw Materials.


The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) regulates novel foods in Brazil. ANVISA requires pre-market safety assessments and approval for novel foods and novel ingredients. Brazil has specific regulations, Resolution 16/1999 and Resolution 17/1999, governing the approval of novel foods and novel ingredients[28].

Need support on novel food regulations? Contact RegASK experts

In addition to the existing regulatory framework, governments around the world are taking proactive steps to foster food innovation. From North America to Europe and Asia Pacific, government-led initiatives create an enabling environment for food entrepreneurs to develop new products and ideas. These initiatives range from consultation programs and grants to research funding and access to data, all of which help create a supportive ecosystem for food innovators.

Here are a few examples of government-led initiatives:

  • US FDA has set up programs to support innovation in food technologies while maintaining safe food production. In Nov 2022, US FDA completed its first pre-market consultation for human food from cultured animal cells. It is in discussions with multiple firms about various types of food made from cultured animal cells, including food made from seafood cells[29]. The regulator encourages companies to engage in conversions with them “often and early in their product and process development phase, well ahead of making any submission” to them.
  • In Europe, there is a list of different funding programs supporting food science research & development, and innovation[30]. Food companies that want to sell novel foods in the European Union market must apply to the European Commission to authorize their products[31].
  • In Canada, the federal government has launched the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), a five-year initiative to promote innovation and sustainability in the agriculture and food sectors.
  • In Australia, the federal government has established the Food Agility CRC, a research and development center focusing on digital and data-driven innovation in the food industry.
  • Singapore has become a hub of food tech start-ups[32]. Singapore government is showing strong support for food innovation to address the food security challenge as the island nation imports more than 90% of its food supply[33].
  • China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs included the cultivated meat industry as part of its five-year agricultural plan released in 2021, the first time that cultivated meat was included as one of the important food industry development areas[34]. The 14th Five-Year Plan released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in 2022 calls for exploring the research and development of cultivated proteins and other novel foods to upgrade the nation’s food industry[35].
  • The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), a state-owned research corporation, has launched projects to research and develop alternative proteins such as cultured meat and plant-based foods[36].

Overall, these government initiatives aim to support the development of new and innovative products and technologies that can help to improve the quality, safety, and sustainability of the food supply.

Balancing food innovation and regulatory compliance: what companies should do

To protect consumers, food companies seeking innovation should also ensure their products comply with regulations and meet safety standards set out by government authorities. If you are investing in the food innovation area, these are the necessary steps you can take to meet regulatory requirements:

  1. Correctly understand and interpret current regulations and apply them in your business operations.An Easy Solution To Effective Regulatory Monitoring
  2. Keep track of regulatory changes and trends to anticipate risks and opportunities.
  3. Develop a comprehensive food safety plan that covers an end-to-end food manufacturing process, from R&D and sourcing of raw materials to production, packaging, and distribution. You should also set up procedures to monitor and control food safety risks and implement strict food safety protocols throughout the product lifecycle.
  4. Develop a Quality Management System to ensure products are developed, tested, and produced in compliance with regulations.
  5. Engage regulators early. Food companies can collaborate with regulatory bodies to ensure their innovations comply with regulations. This can involve seeking feedback from regulatory bodies during the early stage of the product development process and engaging in ongoing communication to stay up-to-date on regulatory requirements.
  6. Embrace new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things to improve efficiency, transparency, traceability, and safety in the food supply chain.

How RegASK helps companies seeking to do food innovation

Go-To-Market Regulatory e-Guidebooks

Companies doing food innovation must understand the regulatory requirements for the food products they want to produce and market. RegASK’s Go-To-Market Regulatory e-Guidebooks provide a practical overview of the regulatory landscape and compliance requirements for foods and food ingredients per country to help companies achieve product compliance.

The regulatory topics covered by the e-Guidebooks include:

  • Compositional standard regulations
  • Labelling, advertising, and promotional regulations
  • Registration process and requirements
  •  Importation requirements

And more…

Ask RegASK Consulting Service

In addition to the e-Guidebooks, RegASK also leverages a global network of local experts to help companies:

  • Assess the regulatory feasibility of selling and positioning their innovative food products in target countries
  • Design optimal path-to-market strategies to accelerate business expansion.
  • Develop communication materials such as label claims, advertisements, and HCP communication
  • Build a regulatory dossier for local authorities

Read our case study Path-to-Market Success of a Novel Food Ingredient to learn more about our service.

Regulatory Intelligence Platform

The food industry is evolving fast, and regulatory changes are constantly occurring worldwide. RegASK’s AI-powered regulatory intelligence platform RegAlerts helps food companies stay updated on regulatory changes impacting their businesses. The platform captures news and updates on new foods, novel food ingredients, alternative proteins, and other topics related to food innovation, allowing food innovation companies to keep track of the latest industry issues and stay one step ahead.

To know more about RegASK’s products and services, book a demo to speak to our regulatory experts.


What you'll get with RegASK

  • Early detection and mitigation of regulatory risks 
  • End-to-end regulatory support throughout your product lifecycle
  • Strategic consulting to build the optimal business strategy for your commercial success

Book a demo



[1] Future Market Insights – Alternative Protein Market Snapshot (2022-2032)

[2] Good Food Institute – Plant-based meat

[3] Alternative Proteins: “Impossibly Real” Plant-Based Meat 

[4] Commentary: Food companies are vying to make the Impossible Beef of the sea

[5] Commentary: Food companies are vying to make the Impossible Beef of the sea

[6] European Commission – Approval of fourth insect as a Novel Food

[7] Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions

[8] Dabbou S, Gai F, Biasato I, Capucchio MT, Biasibetti E, Dezzutto D, Meneguz M, Plachà I, Gasco L, Schiavone A. Black soldier fly defatted meal as a dietary protein source for broiler chickens: Effects on growth performance, blood traits, gut morphology and histological features. J Anim Sci Biotechnol. 2018 Jul 9.

[9] Food and climate change – the vital, but often overlooked links between the two

[10] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Energy

[11] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Key facts and findings

[12] World Food Programme – A global food crisis

[13] How inclusive innovation could transform food systems – and help to end world hunger

[14] How inclusive innovation could transform food systems – and help to end world hunger

[15] World Food Programme – A global food crisis

[16] Food Technologies: Necessary, Unique or Challenging?

[17] Good Food Institute – Reducing the price of alternative proteins 

[18] How Singapore is using alternative proteins to boost food security

[19] Good Food Institute – Why plant-based meat will ultimately be less expensive than conventional meat

[20] Sustainable and circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation – The need for guidance on alternative proteins highlighted to Codex Alimentarius Commission


[22] US FDA – Focus Area: Novel Foods and Food Ingredients

[23] US FDA – About the GRAS Notification Program

[24] Government of Canada – Novel foods: Overview

[25] European Commission – Questions and Answers: New Novel Food Regulation

[26] European Food Safety Authority – Novel food applications: regulations and guidance

[27] Singapore Food Agency – Novel Food

[28] Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária – Anvisa – Food

[29] US FDA – FDA Completes First Pre-Market Consultation for Human Food Made Using Animal Cell Culture Technology

[30] European Food Safety Authority – Funding programmes

[31] European Food Safety Authority – Novel food and traditional food applications

[32] Singapore emerges as food tech hub, thanks to state support

[33] Singapore: Food security despite the odds

[34] China’s New 5-Year Plan is a Blueprint for the Future of Meat

[35] 国家发改委:发展生物经济 探索研发“人造蛋白”等新型食品

[36] Brazil is at the forefront of the development of cultured meat


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