What are lab-grown foods and how will they impact the CPG sector?


What are lab-grown foods and how will they impact the CPG sector?

NielsenIQ’s Leading Edge report takes a look at 18 popular transformative ideas that the CPG industry is investing in right now. These ideas are slated to fuel the next phase of exponential growth within the retail and global consumer goods sector. 

Among these ideas is something that sounds like science fiction—lab-grown food. While still in the early stages of development, this advance has the potential to change so much of what we know about food production and consumption. Here’s what you need to know.

What is lab-grown food? 

Lab-grown food comes in many varieties, but let’s start with what you’ve likely heard of—lab-grown meat. Also known as cultured or synthetic meat, lab-grown meat is created by harvesting cells from living animals. The cells are then grown in a nutrient-rich environment until they reach a large enough size to eat.   

Meat is among the most well-known cultured products, but many foods can also be lab-grown. For example, lab-grown chocolate can be created with cells harvested from cocoa beans. Dairy products like milk can also be lab-grown using bacteria or fungi to create the same whey proteins found in cow’s milk. Because the milk does not come from an animal, it presents an interesting possibility for vegan diets.   

Although still in the initial stages of development, cultured foods, like synthetic chocolate, offer an alternative to total reliance on increasingly delicate and unpredictable supply chains.  For example, cocoa farmers experience challenges with crop yields due to climate change. Rising demand for chocolate drives farmers to clear more forests to increase supply, which contributes to deforestation. Additionally, low pay for farmers has created a reliance on child labor to meet demand. A turn to synthetic cocoa could alleviate some of these supply, climate, and labor challenges.  

Lab-grown food has the potential to usher in a new generation of food, and with it, new consumer concerns and curiosities, technological barriers, and health implications that stem from this new frontier.

What industries will be disrupted? 

  • Livestock/meat industry 
  • Plant-based protein manufacturers 
  • Dairy industry 
  • Cocoa industry 

Signals of change to be aware of 

Rise of the Flexitarian diet: Rather than shifting completely to a new diet, an increasing number of shoppers are adopting a more flexible mindset and sampling elements of diets as it suits their health needs and goals. For example, although only 2% of Americans adhere to the vegan diet, NielsenIQ Product Insight indicates a 17%-dollar sales increase in vegan products. Additionally, the popularity of meatless Mondays continues to grow. According to NielsenIQ’s latest read on conscious eating, on average three in every 10 households in West Europe are reducing meat consumption.  

New mindset, new views: Generational differences within households may also be impacting how families are eating.  Younger generations are expressing new attitudes towards meat, given its impact on the environment and animal welfare.  

Increased spending on sustainability: According to NielsenIQ Product Insight, Food and Beverage products with a sustainability attribute increased 17% in dollar sales, indicating a growing consumer interest in preserving the environment through consumption choices. 

asian woman using a smart glasses in front of an office building

Are you prepared for the future of CPG? 

Visit our Leading Edge report to learn more about the future of CPG.