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 over-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 identify ‘what good looks like’ for different food sectors in terms of rebalancing protein consumption. What does the science tell us about where we need to get to, what does that translate into in practice for food businesses, how can you as a business know that your activities and ambitions are on par with scale of the challenge, and what more do you need to help you get there?

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 with chefs to address these challenges in the US and Europe.


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.

We are piloting a new curriculum with the University of West London to equip chefs to create rebalanced dishes and products as they start or continue their careers. Our work will make an important contribution to increasing the availability, variety and quality of rebalanced dishes and products, and help to make sustainable protein consumption the norm.

Click here to download the 2018 Chefs Survey Insights

Click here to download the 2019 Expert Roundtable report on Rebalancing Protein Consumption


The US 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.

In 2017, we launched a new innovation program with US school districts and food manufacturers to test and scale approaches to increasing the number of tasty, healthy, and affordable plant-based options available to school chefs and ultimately students. This work will be complemented by a new education and behavior change campaign that supports children and the community surrounding them, to choose tasty, nutritional, plant-based protein meals.

We are piloting this work with ten US school districts representing 38 million meals a year with ambitions to learn from the insights we gather and scale the learnings from this work, including to other food service contexts.

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.