2024 Predictions: TurtleTree


Precision Fermentation


From a rise in contract manufacturing, to new ways to meet the demands of market needs and new technologies, get ready to witness the evolution of the precision fermentation and lactoferrin industry like never before – as predicted by our very own TurtleTree executives.


Here’s a sneak peek into what the future holds:


1. In the face of shifting market conditions, food and beverage products that stand out on health and sustainability will rise above the rest


Inflation will continue to drive price hikes, making consumers particularly sensitive to product costs and maximizing value for money. This will prompt them to more closely examine product attributes and taste and nutritional performance will emerge as paramount factors.

Additionally, consumers will increasingly seek sustainable and socially responsible options. In this environment, consumers will become increasingly curious about production processes and the geographical proximity of manufacturing, and there will be a growing emphasis on company transparency and accountability.

TurtleTree’s world-first animal-free sustainable lactoferrin, LF+, stands out across each of these areas and will be the go-to ingredient of choice for leading alternative protein companies.



2. Advancements in precision fermentation-derived dairy ingredients will fuel regulatory progress for alternative proteins


There will be an increasing need for regulatory clarity in 2024, with the absence of established safety guidelines for alternative proteins posing a hurdle for introducing novel animal-free ingredients to the market. The regulatory advancements achieved by precision fermentation-derived dairy ingredients so far will catalyze further progress, paving the way for regulatory acceptance of additional bioactives.

This momentum has been shaped by industry forerunners like The EVERY Company, Impossible Foods, and Motif FoodWorks, as well as TurtleTree’s first self-GRAS designation for animal-free lactoferrin. The precedents created here will provide benchmarks for the industry to rely on for establishing safety claims in the absence of specific FDA guidelines.

Moving forward, trade associations will play an increasingly important role, bridging the gap and expanding collaborative efforts between industry and regulatory bodies.



3. The alternative protein industry will benefit from an expanding talent pool


The alternative protein industry is witnessing a significant expansion in its talent pool, with valuable opportunities opening up for companies to access specialized and talented individuals. As the industry grows, the demand for versatile, team-oriented professionals who can adeptly wear multiple hats is on the rise.

Anticipating the evolving needs of the sector, hiring requirements are expected to become more robust as companies focus on strategically building teams that align with their evolving needs.



4. Investors will increasingly look to alternative protein companies with positive unit economics


As interest rates remain high and investment deceleration continues in 2024, alternative protein companies with robust and sustainable business models will distinguish themselves. Investors will prioritize gross margin positive business models, and it will be important for alternative protein companies to communicate a short path to profitability.

By conveying strong performance across each of these areas, in addition to articulating a clear plan for obtaining regulatory approval, alternative protein companies can attract the interest of investors seeking solid returns in this challenging economic climate.

In this environment, companies should look to high-value targets and the potential they offer to de-risk and improve unit economics.



5. New technologies will be increasingly used to enhance alternative proteins


Artificial intelligence and machine learning haves taken technology and business by storm and we’ll see an increasing number of alternative protein companies harnessing the benefits. Here, alternative protein companies can leverage datasets from their businesses or other centralized datasets and use AI and machine learning to tease out what is most relevant to them. The applications are considerable and include protein engineering and design, strain identification, and bioprocess optimization through to enhanced predictions for product, design, and formulation.

Ginkgo Bioworks has partnered with Google Cloud to build a powerful AI-driven platform for biological engineering, and Triplebar is also leveraging the technologies for biomanufacturing platform development. Companies like Tastewise have created AI-powered tools that help brands innovate and access market insights at significant speed, enabling them to better and more quickly understand the needs within certain customer segments and geographies and determine product preferences and formulations.

To harness these new technologies appropriately, the industry will need to curate its datasets to be more readable, more reliable, and more capable of being analyzed. While this process takes time, the insights on offer here will be incredibly powerful.



6. Precision fermentation will take the spotlight as questions about the scalability of cell-based technology continue


As we enter the next phase of innovation in the alternative protein industry, the spotlight is likely to shift from cell-based products to precision fermentation. While there was initial fervor and significant investments in cell-based meat and seafood, the economics have prompted a pivot toward precision fermentation.

The technology’s proven track record and existing infrastructure for scalable manufacturing position it as the next frontier, sparking renewed excitement and conversations within the alternative protein space, and challenging the dominance of cell-based approaches in recent years.


7. Consumers will increasingly demand excellence in alternative proteins


Beyond taste, nutritional performance will take center stage as the alternative protein industry evolves in the coming twelve months.

As consumers continue to shift toward more sustainable, animal-free options that align with their values, they will demand not only superior taste but also a deeper understanding of nutritional benefits.

In this environment, lactoferrin will emerge as a key ingredient for the alternative protein, providing functional benefits that align with the discerning preferences of modern consumers.



8. Demand for contract manufacturing will rise

As more companies move to commercial-scale production, the need for contract manufacturers will be paramount as demand for large-scale bioreactor capacity surges.

While most contract manufacturing presently caters to the pharmaceutical industry, there’s a pressing need for these businesses to adapt to accommodate the burgeoning alternative protein sector.

This shift will require the implementation of appropriate quality systems and the cultivation of relevant expertise to effectively oversee and manage these expanding operations.



9. Embracing a flexible, collaborative approach for industry success


Companies should prepare for market fluctuations by being nimble and agile. Collaborations, especially between major dairy, ingredient, and alternate protein players, will become more prevalent.

Partnerships may involve dairy companies becoming distributors, manufacturers, or customers of alternative protein dairy products, expanding their portfolio with sustainable and ESG-minded offerings.

Collaboration is essential for advancing the industry collectively. Here we can transcend competitive boundaries and work together to access knowledge and technology.


10. New technologies will reshape the future of alternative proteins


Advances in AI and machine learning hold significant promise for the alternative protein industry, providing companies with a seamless process for discovering novel proteins as well as offering powerful tools for predicting trends and consumer preferences.

As we move forward, AI and machine learning will play a pivotal role in product prediction, design, and formulation, providing powerful insights tailored to specific geographies and customer segments.

Companies not engaging with these transformative technologies risk falling behind and should consider partnerships to stay competitive as the landscape evolves.