Focus on healthier alternatives at Good Food Institute’s smart protein summit

Smart protein is going ‘mission mode’ to establish smart protein as a pillar of India’s green economy

Smart protein
Varun Desphande, President, GFI Asia, Siraj Azmat Chaudhry, Siraj Hussain, and Dr. Sudhanshu officially open the Smart Protein Summit 2022

Thursday, October 13, New Delhi: The Good Food Institute India (GFI India), the central expert organization and convening body in the ‘smart protein’ sector, kicked off their annual flagship event, the Smart Protein Summit in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and with support from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Eat Right India initiative. 

Opening the event, Varun Desphande, President, GFI Asia revealed plans for GFI India’s Centre for Nutritional Excellence with FICCI saying, “The challenges we face before us, in terms of food safety and security are growing. We think that smart protein – meat, eggs, and dairy made from plants, cells, and microorganisms – is one of our best bets for a more sustainable, secure, and just food supply.”

Given the World Health Organization’s warnings that we may soon be living in a post-antibiotic era due to antimicrobial resistance and that 75 percent of infections are likely to be foodborne in the future, we need to transform our protein supply. Building on this, Siraj Hussain, FICCI Advisor and former Secretary, MoFPI & Agriculture, Government of India emphatically shared that, “Smart protein may be a new concept, but it is a sector with immense global potential. FICCI is very excited to partner with GFI India to transform our food system. There’s an enormous opportunity for the smart protein sector to create linkages with Indian farmers and ensure that the protein supply comes from local producers.”

The last two years have seen encouraging developments in smart protein technologies, startups, and investments, as consumer appetite for sustainable alternatives to conventional animal proteins continues to grow. The Indian smart protein ecosystem has grown at a remarkable rate – from just a handful of stakeholders to a thriving sunrise sector with 50+ startups, 80+ supporting companies, investments poised to grow exponentially, and policy advancements beginning to take clear shape. 

Speaking about this paradigm shift, Siraj Azmat Chaudhry, Past Chair, National Committee on Food Processing, FICCI, Former Chairman, Cargill India, and Chairman, NCML, said, “I see this as the revenge of the underdog. In India, there’s a saying, ‘ghar ki murgi dal barabar‘ and now we have dals and pulses coming back to compete with meat! The growth of this sector will allow farmers to diversify from cereal crops to diverse protein-rich crops like pulses and millets.” 

Beyond producers, smart protein has the potential to improve dietary choices and nutrition for consumers as well. Closing out the inaugural address, Dr. Sudhanshu, Secretary, APEDA said, “Our citizens have the right to safe food. When we innovate with new products, they should be accessible to the common masses. Smart protein also provides a new platform for entrepreneurs to prosper and this way India can keep pace with global trends.”

Echoing his sentiments, Desphande reiterated the need to become Aatma Nirbhar in the smart protein arena as well. He said “We have crop diversity, a globally competitive talent pool, and hundreds of people working on this opportunity – many of whom you see here in the room. We need an enabling policy environment for the sector to grow and thrive.” 

The Smart Protein Summit has been designed by GFI India and FICCI to propel India to the forefront of the global race for smart protein innovation. Following the inaugural address, Deloitte partner Anand Ramanathan and Varun Deshpande unveiled for the first time, topline numbers on the market size and export potential of smart protein from a rigorous study by GFI India and Deloitte India. ‘The Smart Protein Economic Analysis’ delves deep into the smart protein economic opportunity for India, shedding light on avenues for job creation and India’s potential to become a leading manufacturer and supplier of raw materials, and equipment for smart protein globally by 2030.

As the most impactful platform for entrepreneurs, regulators, investors, policymakers, scientists, and other stakeholders in the smart protein sector, the summit then hosted two exciting sessions including the ‘Innovators Showcase’ where 5 startups pitched their ventures to 4 seasoned investors and ‘From Bench to Billions – nurturing biotech to mega scale” chaired by GS Krishnan, President, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE). 

Emphasizing the role that India has to play in the global smart protein industry, GS Krishnan said, “As you all know, India is one of the most sought-after countries in terms of manufacturing capabilities – we need to understand how to capture this opportunity to grow the bioeconomy to its full potential. We project that India’s bioeconomy can grow from the 80 billion dollars it is valued at today to 300 billion dollars by 2030.” 

Later in the day, a never-seen-before Smart Protein Tasting Tour brought together key collaborators, value-chain partners, and media to taste and experience many plant-based products on one single platform. Innovative startups across the smart protein category, including OatMlk, BVeg, Evo Foods, ProMeat, Mighty, Evolved Foods, Funny Nani, 1ness Foods, Soft Spot Foods, and more impressed the audiences with their ‘next generation’ products.

Smart protein is an essential pillar of this bioeconomy and over the course of the two-day Summit, GFI India, FICCI, and all the event’s supporters aim to demonstrate just how valuable this burgeoning sector could be to India’s new green economy.


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