Published 1 month ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: NotCo México
Food investors and entrepreneurs would do well to mark the major focus on
plant-based protein innovation happening for our neighbors to the South.
Just like all disruptive industries, the ever-growing plant-based food
has been through quite a rollercoaster
over the last several years.
But why are plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods such a big deal in
the first place?
Well, ethical concerns aside, global meat and dairy production produces roughly
18 percent of all
human-induced greenhouse gas emissions — that’s more than the entire
transportation industry across the globe. Farming animals for food also takes up
lots of land — making it a major driver of Amazon
rainforest deforestation and
But regardless of the environmental impacts, consumers have not stopped
frequenting the meat aisle at grocery stores around the world. In fact, global
meat consumption increased by nearly 60
over the last two decades — and shows no signs of slowing, according to an
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But environmentally friendlier protein alternatives — whether derived from
or so-called “novel
— have continued to captivate sustainability-conscious
in recent years, presenting a growing opportunity for eco-entrepreneurs in the
While much of the focus on plant-based food innovation has been on Europe
and North America, other parts of the world are also embracing the change —
a shift that investors and businesses unafraid of expanding their horizons
From Mexico to Argentina, Latin America has also experienced a
respectable increase in demand for plant-based meat substitutes; but supply is
still lagging — which presents an excellent opportunity in the region.
“Mexico has undergone a formidable transformation with regards to vegan
Marquez, grants program
coordinator for food-awareness organization ProVeg
International, told Sustainable Brands®. “New
brands have popped up in the country, increasing competition — which has
resulted in higher-quality products and greater awareness among those consumers
who seek healthier food options that are also better for the planet.”
Marquez added that, for plant-based brands to be successful in Latin America’s
diverse marketplace, “it’s crucial to understand the importance of adapting
products to the preferences of [each country’s] consumers” as “food here is
intimately related to local traditions and celebrations.”
He highlighted NotCo — a Chile-based unicorn
on a mission to remove animals from the food system — which launched its
products in Mexico with a marketing campaign that was perfectly in tune with
local values: “They made their own slogan based on the cry of Mexican
independence. This came with information showing how their products can be used
with traditional Mexican dishes, allowing them to adhere to local traditions to
Lyda Durango, director of marketing
and communications for Fundación
Veg — a South American
nonprofit that works to promote plant-based lifestyles — chimed in from
Colombia with advice for international entrepreneurs seeking to enter the
Colombian plant-based food market, which is
to exceed US$521 million by 2028.
“The best move is to form an alliance with local vegan brands while also taking
part in local plant-based events,” she told SB. “It’s important to be a part of
the local vegan ecosystem to get past any barriers to these national and
Durango also highlighted the importance of keeping prices low in a part of the
world where most inhabitants do not have a high income. The same logic can also
be applied to countries farther south of the equator.
According to Mauricio Serrano
director for Veganuary — a campaign that encourages
people around the world to go vegan for the month of January — “the plant-based
market has grown substantially in the last five years in Chile and Argentina.”
Chile, however, has witnessed greater growth in the number of vegan products
compared to those in Argentina.
“Veganuary hired Mintel Consulting to do a study in 2021; and the results
showed that 12 percent of all new products sold in Chile had the vegan label,
while in Argentina it was 6 percent. Both countries have witnessed exponential
growth in products labeled vegan in recent years.”
Serramo Palma added that a study carried out by Veganuary and Happy
Cow — an app used to find vegan restaurants and
establishments with vegan options — showed that vegan options in restaurants
grew 43 percent in Chile and 26 percent in Argentina from 2022 to 2023.
When asked what advice he would like to give entrepreneurs interested in
entering the space in South America, he also highlighted the importance of
seeking expertise from local entrepreneurs or consultants with industry
“We’ve witnessed the emergence of many new vegan products and stores focused on
plant-based products; but we’ve also seen many go out of business — which may
have been avoided if they had gotten the right consulting from a local,” he
Serrano said the International Plant-Based Foods Working
Group, which brings together different associations to
help plant-based companies and startups around the globe, is beginning to work
with organizations in Argentina and Chile to help local plant-based food
companies grow and succeed.
“Judging by the results of different market analyses in the region, I can see
that the vegan market will continue to expand and put itself in a position to
compete with more traditional food brands while providing a more attractive
alternative for consumers who care about animal welfare, the planet, and their
health,” he concluded.
Published Jan 18, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Roberto Guerra is a bilingual writer, editor, entrepreneur, corporate engagement and communications specialist, and US Air Force veteran with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Universidad de la Sabana (Bogota, Colombia) and an International Master in Sustainable Development and Corporate Responsibility from EOI Business School (Madrid, Spain). Born in New York and raised in Florida, Roberto is former managing director for the Spanish-language version of vegan business magazine "vegconomist" and is also author of three novels. He has lived, worked and studied on four different continents.