Forty percent of food manufacturers and retailers now have dedicated teams working on plant-based product development, a new report from London-based nonprofit investor network FAIRR reveals. For the report, titled Appetite for Disruption: A Second Serving, FAIRR engaged 25 food retailers and manufacturers over a four-year period to examine their approaches to sustainable proteins. The analysis showed that retail giants such as Tesco and Kroger and food manufacturers such as Unilever and Nestlé have committed to shifting their food portfolios to more sustainable protein sources, moving away from animal proteins toward plant-based and other new protein sources.

Tesco’s plant-based brand offerings include the Wicked Kitchen range and Plant Chef line, and Unilever has invested $94 million in a new innovation center with 500 employees to “help formulate the next generation of meat and dairy alternatives” for its brands such as Knorr and Hellmann’s. For Nestlé, 10 percent of its research and development employees are now dedicated solely to the development of plant-based products.

“The company data published today is hard evidence that big food brands are vying for their slice of the plant-based pie,” Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and Chief Investment Officer at Coller Capital, said. “They are drastically scaling-up and skilling-up their capacity to research and develop plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.”

The FAIRR report also reveals that investment in plant-based proteins has already reached $1.1 billion in 2020, nearly double the total investment in 2019. The report anticipates the market to grow to $17.9 billion by 2025.

“The post-COVID landscape has made 2020 a watershed year for the sustainable protein market: the sector has attracted double the investment of last year in just six months,” Coller. “This engagement shows which food companies are putting in place the infrastructure and innovation to benefit from this seismic shift in the ways we shop and eat; and those that will lose out. Investors are watching closely.”