Earlier this year, we shared the news that Canada’s largest meat processor, Maple Leaf Foods acquired Lightlife Foods, a plant-based company known for products such as tempeh, vegan sausages, and burgers. Maple Leaf Foods must clearly understand the rise of plant-based foods because they recently bought vegan company Field Roast Grain Meat for $120 million along with other related costs.

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the plant-based food sector is a booming. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and could make up one-third of the market by 2050. This move away from meat is largely due to consumers’ rising concerns about animal welfare, personal health, and importantly, sustainability – which has been a major focus for Maple Foods recently.

“The acquisition of Field Roast complements and expands our portfolio in the fast-growing North American market for alternative proteins. It also aligns with our vision to be a leader in sustainable protein and create shared value through making a positive social impact,” Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, told PR News Wire.

This is a great move considering a number of other large food conglomerates have made similar acquisitions recently. Tyson Foods, Inc., the world’s largest meat producer, has a five percent ownership stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat (Tyson’s CEO also recently shared why he is excited about plant-based protein!). Food giant Nestlé recently bought Sweet Earth Natural Foods, a Californian-based company known for vegan meals and snacks made from plant-based proteins. Not to mention, major beef supplier Cargill recently sold off the last of their cattle feedlots and is focusing on transitioning their meat department to more broadly focus on “proteins,” denoting the inclusion of plant-based proteins – they also made an investment in Memphis Meats, a company working on lab-cultured meat.

While some may be hesitant to embrace these huge companies getting involved in the plant-based sector, we are reaching a time where the question of how we are going to feed a growing population that is set to reach nine billion by 2050 cannot be ignored.

Demand for protein in the developed and developing world is at an all-time high, with the average person in the U.S. consuming 103 grams per day, around double the actual recommended amount. The animal agriculture system already covers over 45 percent of the world’s land mass, uses a majority of finite freshwater water resources, and is responsible for rampant air and water pollution – not to mention is the largest singular source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even with all the resources that this industry uses, nearly one billion people still go hungry. The fact is, we need big companies like Maple Leaf Foods to get involved in shifting our broken food system away from animal agriculture and towards a more sustainable one centered around plant-based proteins instead.

To learn more about the environmental impact of our food choices as well as trends and developments in the plant-based food space, check out our podcast #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias.

Image Source: Field Roast Grain Meat/Facebook