As the Founder of Plant Powered Consulting and Co-Founder VegTech Invest, Elysabeth Alfano is working to drive innovation in the plant-based food sector.
Alfano explains that she was drawn to the plant-based industry for its potential to help consumers choose healthier foods that had a lower carbon footprint. “There are no silver bullets in life,” she tells Food Tank. But she was looking for “something that is as close to a silver bullet as possible, [that] can address as many issues as possible in the amount of time that I have.”
Alfano co-founded VegTech Invest to drive investments in “plant based innovation.” And with Plant Powered Consulting, a marketing, branding, communications, and PR firm, to help companies navigate the changing landscape of the plant-based market.
Alfano sees this sector encompassing not only products like those from big brands including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. But she says the market also includes “interesting technology” that turns plant-derived ingredients into new products including fermented proteins and cultivated meat.
Alfano is hopeful that younger consumers will embrace these new products. But, she notes, innovation will never matter if consumers aren’t interested. “It’s taste, first and foremost,” Alfano tells Food Tank. “And then immediately following taste is price, and price comes with scale.”
To make products more available and affordable, “you need new production facilities, new production equipment,” Alfano says. “You need to have enough novel ingredients sourced—we can’t do everything with corn, soy, wheat, fava beans, and chickpeas. All of these supply chain constraints need investment capital so that they can be there to actually support the end product.”
Research suggests, however, that the demand for meat alternatives may not be increasing as some experts initially projected. A report from the Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association shows that the U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27 percent in 2020. Since then, some reports such as those from IRI suggest that sales may be leveling off. And Beyond Meat is laying off 200 positions.
But Alfano says that these numbers can be deceiving. She argues that it’s important to acknowledge a benchmark and assess growth against that number. “Nothing grows at 40 percent year over year,” she says, confident that interest in these products is here to stay.
Listen to the full conversation with Elysabeth Alfano on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear about mission-driven companies innovating for change, precision fermentation and the future of cultivated meat, and where demand for plant-based meat alternatives is headed.