European Commission logo

There is increased consumer demand for organic and genetically modified-free supply chains. Combined with an increase in flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets they will expand markets for pulses and processed plant proteins, according to a new study published by the European Commission.

The report analyzed the effect of current EU policy measures in the common agricultural policy. It made several suggestions on potential policy initiatives to encourage the sector’s growth.

While global demand is growing, the EU currently produces a relatively small volume of plant proteins destined for use in animal feed. That’s primarily because of the comparative competitiveness of soybeans in the market — and a lack of good growing conditions for soybeans within the EU. But increased focus on genetically modified feeds could provide new options for European farmers in the future, according to the study.

Changes in consumer demand affecting the market for plant proteins in feed also has been seen in food markets where there has been considerable innovation in the past 10 years. That’s in response to increasing demand for vegan or vegetarian products as well as gluten-free foodstuffs.

Despite the small size of the market compared to feed – just 6 percent of all plant proteins are manufactured as food products – the added value of the products tends to be considerably more, according to the study.

The study couldn’t make specific policy recommendations. But it suggested that efforts to promote production of European plant proteins should instead focus on innovation and provision of the infrastructure needed for storage, segregation, sorting and de-hulling of plant proteins without relying on fossil fuels. The investments could be combined with improved market data and information exchange to help researchers and farmers better develop and market plant-protein products, the study found.