The challenge

We produce enough protein to feed the world. Yet while many people currently lack access to good quality protein, the average adult in Europe and the US consumes over 50% more protein than they need. The majority of that excess consumption of protein comes from animal sources. Animal protein is typically a rich source of high-quality protein. However, our current protein production systems are causing significant damage to the natural systems that agriculture depends on, such as biodiversity and soils. Livestock production in particular accounts for 14.5% of the world’s GHG emissions.This brings future security of food supply into question at a time when rising incomes and population growth are driving increasing global demand for protein. What’s more, meat-rich diets are currently associated with higher rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers, providing an opportunity to drive better health outcomes as diets shift.

We envisage a future in which everyone in our growing global population has access to healthy, affordable, tasty nutrition, where sustainable animal protein is well-balanced in our diets with plant-based and alternative proteins, and all of it has been produced within environmental limits.

The need to rebalance protein consumption is now widely accepted. But how we make this shift – and the role of business specifically in enabling it – is under-explored.

Our solution

Food service companies, suppliers and retailers play a crucial role in almost every meal we eat. The Protein Challenge 2040 is working with its partners to accelerate and scale up their progress in enabling rebalanced protein consumption.

We are working together to bring to life ‘what good looks like’ for different food sectors in terms of rebalancing protein consumption and to collectively drive pre-competitive action. Our engagement with chefs across these industries highlights the current obstacles to making rebalanced protein the norm: a lack of good, affordable plant-based ingredients in menus, a lack of culinary training about plant-based and rebalanced meal development, and that rebalanced dishes aren’t always met with enthusiasm by consumers. We are testing scaleable, practical action to influence innovation, skills and mindsets in the US and Europe.

Europe: Transforming culinary skills and training

There are more than 325,000 chefs in the UK alone, and millions more across Europe. Our engagement with chefs across food sectors has revealed that they often lack the knowledge and skills to deliver meals with a better balance of protein. Neither the traditional curriculum for student chefs, nor on-the-job training, addresses this sufficiently.

From September 2019 - May 2020, we piloted a new curriculum with the University of West London to teach culinary arts students how to make informed sourcing decisions, create healthy, nutritious dishes and products that contain a better balance of meat and plant-based foods, and influence wider food culture. By sharing the teaching resources and insights generated in a free-to-use Handbook and Insights Report, we hope to accelerate a vital skills transition across the food industry that will help to make sustainable protein consumption the norm.

Future Plates: Transforming culinary skills and training

Find out more about the project: Transforming culinary skills and training

USA: Transforming school lunches in the USA

The U.S. School Lunch Program is a crucial place to test approaches for driving healthier eating habits for individuals and for the planet:

  • Reach: nearly 100,000 schools/institutions serve school lunches to 30 million students each day, and 4.9 billion lunches are served annually.
  • Long-term positive impact: by working together with students, we aim to influence eating habits early to help enable longer, healthier lives for the next generation.
  • Students are influencers: today’s students are more concerned about the planet. We believe that students can positively influence each other, their families, and their communities for positive change.

From 2018 to 2020, we worked with ten US school districts - representing 38 million meals a year - and food manufacturers to identify and develop two key approaches that need to happen in parallel to increase the consumption of tasty, healthy, and affordable plant-based options by students. Our work focused on achieving a shift in the perception of plant-based foods and an increase in the quality and quantity of plant-based menu options available to schools. 

Through the program, food manufacturers developed three new plant-based meal options, and - together with behavior change experts - Forum developed a new education and behavior change campaign that empowers young people and the community surrounding them, to choose tasty, nutritional, plant-based protein meals.

Future Plates: Transforming school lunches in the USA

Find out more about the project: Transforming school lunches in the USA

Join us

We are seeking leading businesses and civil society and government organisations, ambitious for leadership and innovation, to join our efforts to create a sustainable protein system. By joining, members are able to:

  • Navigate a rapidly changing landscape on protein consumption: making sense of signals and trends so you can understand strategic risks and seize commercial opportunities
  • Build relationships and access innovation: be part of a community of leading organisations working for change, providing opportunities to build networks and relationships with businesses and innovators across the value chain.
  • Understand your goals and targets: participation will help you to translate expert opinion and scientific research into concrete strategies for you, your organisation and your sector
  • Make progress through collaboration: we pool insights and resources, testing and learning about scalable, practical solutions. Share the investment while Forum for the Future takes care of the groundwork and project management
  • Engage others within your organisation: we provide insight and practical outputs that help you simplify complex issues, inspire colleagues and get senior buy-in for your plans
  • Showcase your leadership: increase your voice, credibility, and impact by working with like-minded change-makers to shape the conversation on protein

Join us in this groundbreaking collaboration!

Contact Sophie Robins (UK)  

Contact Mary McCarthy (US)

Read more about our Future Plates project here.

Stay up-to-date

You can read more about rebalancing protein consumption here, and visit our Futures Centre to keep track of trends, insights and opportunities for the protein sector.