Where’s the beef in plant-based proteins? Finland may have the answer

Blog post
Nesli Sözer

A new sustainable food system requires a dietary shift towards plant-based proteins. This is necessary to meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the global climate targets, as well as to respond to the growing food demand for global population. Finland is upfront in this development, which can bring remarkable business opportunities for plant-based ingredients.

The global challenges create an urgent need to find sustainable alternatives to animal proteins. Finland is a small country, with a minor amount of crops. However, it is a top-notch country when it comes to innovations, and especially food innovations. 

Finland has successfully launched several plant-based protein food products and ingredients to the international market – for example Pulled Oats®, Elovena® and Beanit® as meat alternatives, or BlackGrain from Yellow FieldsTM and Aurora as alternative protein sources obtained from rapeseed and oats. 

The rising role of Finland is not a coincidence. Rather, it is a result of globally acknowledged R&D, strong support for entrepreneurship and successful cooperation between the industry and the research. 

Strong trust between different food ecosystem actors enables Finland to focus on the key issues for plant-based food innovations. There is also a good availability of relevant raw materials, such as oats, faba bean and rapeseed. All this creates an excellent basis for a Finnish success story in this field. 

Finland offers an excellent testbed

Consumer acceptance has a key role in development of feasible business cases around plant-based protein ingredients and meat alternatives. Finnish consumers are very open to try new things – Finland is a pioneer in bringing surprising food innovations successfully to the market. Take the cricket bread, launched by Fazer Bakery a few years back, as an example.

This open attitude makes Finland a really good testbed for plant-based proteins and new ingredients. Restaurants, catering and food service have a key role to introduce and serve delicious meals based on these alternatives. Research continues to create new, easy to cook consumer products that can increase everyday use of plant proteins.

Great potential in emerging markets

But to make a difference in the food system, the shift must go beyond Finland. There is indeed a growing interest towards plant-based proteins in international markets. Both Covid 19 pandemic and the Russian invasion to Ukraine has accelerated this development: food security is increasingly important, creating a burning interest towards plant-based diets. The consciousness from the sustainability point of view keeps also growing.

This opens great possibilities and market potential for new plant-based proteins. We have all the prerequisites to make plant-based foods into an international success story. So far, Finland is the global forerunner, ready to eat up the market.

Plant proteins from Finland is a EXPRO is an ecosystem project focusing on processing technologies for meat alternatives, funded by Business Finland. Partners of the ecosystem include several Finnish companies and research organizations. More information: Plant proteins from Finland, white paper

Nesli Sözer
Nesli Sözer
Research Professor
Our vision beyond 2030

Demand for food is growing at the same rate as the world population. Food production needs to be both sufficiently efficient and less harmful for the environment than before. The challenge is massive, but big steps have already been taken in the right direction.