Published: Mar 21, 2024

Exploring the Future of Food: Insights from Visionary Leaders

I attended the Healthy Innovation Conference in Dubai on 29 February 2024 in which an array of industry experts, scientists and delegates sought to explore the dynamic landscape of food technology and alternative proteins and during which they shed light on the latest advancements, innovations, and opportunities shaping the global food industry. With a focus on sustainability, kindness, and fairness for the planet, people, and animals, this exclusive event brought together over 400 senior executives from leading international plant-based and cultured-food businesses, investors, founders, and food brands pioneering the future of alternative proteins.

Keynote Address: Sergei Ivanov on the Global Food Market in 10 Years

The conference kicked off with an insightful presentation by Sergei Ivanov, Executive Director and Member of the Board at EFKO Group, Russia. Ivanov explained the drivers and challenges expected to shape the global food market in the coming decade, emphasising the pivotal role of alternative proteins in addressing sustainability concerns. Highlighting the staggering discrepancy in government investments between climate technology and alternative proteins, Ivanov underscored the urgent need for increased support and funding in the latter to combat carbon emissions associated with food production.

Navigating Regulatory Landscapes: Insights from Regulatory Experts

Regulatory frameworks emerged as a crucial topic of discussion, with experts delving into changes in regulations across various regions. From the US Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 to Singapore’s establishment of the Singapore Food Agency, speakers outlined the evolving landscape characterised by increasing technological advancements and public health complexities. In countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Italy, stringent regulations ensure compliance with health standards and hygiene control procedures, safeguarding consumers against food-borne illnesses. Interestingly, Italy has banned the marketing and production of cultivated meat and also restrict labelling for plant-based products for example labels such as “cauliflower steak” or “soy salami”, and Florida, USA, it is prohibited to label non-dairy products using the words “milk” and cheese”, for example, “almond milk”.

Tackling Climate Change Through Innovation: Perspectives from Gerhard Schröder

Former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, delivered a compelling address on the imperative of sustainability amidst global chaos and conflict. Schröder emphasised the importance to address socio-economic needs without compromising the needs of future generations, particularly in the face of climate change and food security challenges. Highlighting the UAE’s leadership in innovation, Schröder commended the nation’s transformative energy policies and renewables, showcasing positive outcomes of socio-economic justice and environmental stewardship.

The UAE has also displayed prowess in its innovative water re-use and desalination technology which we as a global community can learn from. In terms of climate change mitigation, the nation has developed the UAE Net Zero by 2050. The sectoral pathways include key decarbonisation measures, such as renewable energy, energy storage solutions, low-carbon hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and green materials, which the nation plans to deploy through 2050. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. It has a planned production capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, with investments totalling AED 50 billion. When completed, it will save over 6.5 million tons of carbon emissions annually. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park contributed to DEWA winning the Best Sustainable Project of the Year in the UAE at the 2014 MEED Quality Awards. This is the first time this award was given to a renewable energy project in the Middle East and North Africa.  These measures will be supported by the enactment of new policies and regulations. The UAE has assessed its overall and sector-specific vulnerability to climate change and has developed plans to incorporate, execute, and track adaptation efforts across the nation in the sectors of energy, infrastructure, health, environment, and food systems. There is significant confidence that climate change is responsible for observed global and regional impacts on ecosystems and human systems. This includes impacts on water scarcity and food systems, health and wellbeing, and infrastructure, cities, and settlements. Climate impacts are comprehensive, and the great majority are adverse. For example, reducing consumption of animal protein and avoiding food waste and overconsumption could slash GHG emissions by 40% to 70% by 2050.

Scientific Innovation and Financial Backing: Advancing Alternative Proteins

A growing community of scientists and financiers is championing scientific innovation in alternative proteins, particularly cultivated meat, as a key strategy in the fight against climate change. Backed by financiers such as the Bezos Earth Fund, EIT Food, and the EFKO Group Fundtech fund, these advancements aim to feed 200 million people using food tech from a humanitarian perspective, aligning with social, cultural, and economic trends.

Panel Discussions: Exploring Food Trends and Innovations

The conference also featured engaging panel discussions, offering diverse perspectives on food trends and innovations. Experts such as Alaa Al Ali from the Novel Foods Group and panelists including Soyean Schroder-Kim, Dr. Andy Zynga, Raymund Schefller, Bilal Ahmad Khan, and Adeel Khan Durrani shared insights on nutrition, sustainability, food security, and consumer trust in innovative foods. Discussions highlighted the urgency of better education on cellular meat and plant-based alternatives to gain consumer trust and disrupt supply chains.

Sweet Proteins: A Solution That Makes Sense

Amidst discussions on innovation, sweet proteins emerged as a fascinating discovery. Derived from fruits primarily found in West Africa, sweet proteins offer a sugar-like sweetness without the negative health impacts associated with traditional sweeteners. Clocking in at 10,000 times sweeter than sucrose on a weight basis, sweet proteins activate taste receptors on the tongue, presenting a promising alternative for health-conscious consumers but are digested as protein and therefore do not possess the harmful effects of sugars.

In conclusion, the conference provided a comprehensive and insightful journey into the realm of food technology and alternative proteins. With discussions spanning regulatory frameworks, climate change mitigation, scientific innovation, and emerging technologies, attendees gained invaluable perspectives and actionable insights to drive positive change in the global food industry. As we navigate the challenges of the future, collaboration, innovation, and sustainability will be paramount in shaping a more resilient and equitable food system for generations to come.


Key Contacts