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Wallonia aims to become major producer of meat substitutes

Duckweed, a potentiaal source of plant protein for humans. © Wikimedia

The Walloon region is planning to use part of its share of the EU subsidy for industrial relaunch to take 5% of the European market for plant-based proteins used as meat substitutes.

The market for meat replacements is a growing one, as people turn away from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle.

Now two of the region’s investment funds, Sogepa and SRIW, are making plans for the launch in the second quarter of this year of a start-up called NewCo, whose business will be the extraction of proteins from plants to turn into meat substitutes.

The plan is one concrete result of a massive brain-storming session where experts in Wallonia identified 30 industrial sectors which showed promise as targets for relaunch, using funding from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

That is a package worth €672.5 billion for the entire EU; €5.95 billion for Belgium, of which €1.48 billion for Wallonia.
According to a market study, NewCo could expect to claim 5% of the EU market in meat substitutes, leading to turnover of €300million by 2030, and a workforce of more than 300 FTEs.

“Crucial to the success of this project is product development, which must be in line with customer tastes, setting up a sales network and brand positioning,” said Renaud Mitmeur, CEO of Sogepa.

Before then, in the period 2022-2024, NewCo would require investment of anywhere between €6 million and €15 million for infrastructure, product and brand development and market research.

In the meantime, as NewCo reaches cruising speed, a supply chain surrounding the company would be created, from agricultural producers supplying the raw materials to food processing companies to extract the proteins.

“There are already a lot of companies who can play a role in this chain. They do have to be connected. If we stand still, we will continue to eat more plant-based foods, but those products will not be produced by us,” said François Héroufosse, general manager of Wagralim, the Walloon cluster of the agri-food industry.

“The vegetable protein sector is on the rise,” said Walloon minister for agriculture Willy Borsus (MR).

“If Wallonia does not occupy a place in it, others will do so, without it creating jobs for our region. This project should enable us to become a major player in the meat substitute sector.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times