3 months ago

Alt-Protein: Eating away climate change?

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  • Protein
  • European
  • Climate
  • Proteins
  • Novel
  • Euobserver
  • Foods
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  • Mycelium
  • Sustainable
An EUobserver magazine exploring the transition to a more climate-friendly diet.


EATING AWAY CLIMATE CHANGE? INTERVIEW Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food EIT Food sees alternative proteins, or ‘protein diversification’, as CEO Andy Zynga prefers to call it, as a promising avenue to address some of the shortcomings of our current food systems. By ALEJANDRO TAUBER Andy Zynga: ‘Just by mere fact of more [of these products] being available at the supermarket, people will try things and through that we believe that the mix of protein sources will actually expand.’ In 2016, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) – an independent EU body established in 2006 – founded EIT Food, a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) focused on tackling problems related to food and food production. The organisation, like all other KICs, brings together stakeholders ranging from industry to civil society to work together on funding projects, companies and individuals that show promise in helping to solve issues like malnutrition, waste and climate change. It’s funded in part through the European Commission, and in part through contributions from industry members. In 2018, the organisation appointed Andy Zynga as CEO, in his first non-profit gig of his career. EIT Food sees alternative proteins, or ‘protein diversification’, as Zynga prefers to call it, as a promising avenue to address some of the shortcomings of our current food systems. EUobserver spoke to Zynga about EIT Food’s mission, the promises of protein diversification, and the shortcomings of existing regulation in helping innovation in the EU flourish. EUobserver: So what brings you to EIT Food, Andy? Zynga: I’ve been in this role for something like four and a half years. After spending my whole career building or turning around businesses in the for profit sector, this is my first time in the non-profit. I’m excited because this role gives me a chance to have an impact on an entire ecosystem plus a whole industry and make doing something that has tangible value for both people and the Although we noticed over the years that while the interest in these sources of protein rose for a while, there’s still work to be done in communicating to the consumer that these options are actually a good source of protein.” planet. And I think at this stage, this is really what we need. Tell me something about EIT Food and its mission. EIT Food is a European Union co-funded non-profit that aims to transform the food system. What we aim to do is to make people and the planet healthier by creating impact in five particular areas; the reduction of the risk of non communicable disease through malnutrition, the reduction of the risk of obesity (with a focus on childhood obesity), reduction in the negative impact of the food system on the environment to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and water, a better circularity of the food system so as to reduce food waste and food loss, and then lastly, improvement in the conditions for better trust of consumers in the food system. Ambitious. It’s basically the pact we have with the citizens of Europe for the funds that we’re getting from the EU Commission. In effect, we identify the challenges in the system that need to be solved across Andy Zynga four areas in which we work, one of them being innovation or product development, then also education, business creation and public engagement. And how has that been going? In the very beginning, in the original consortium, we had 50 partners. So these are fee-paying members in order to build a trusting relationship across that network. This network of partners has grown to about 100 over the years. We have many different partners, from farming cooperatives, to processors, firms like Pepsi and Danone and DSM to retailers like Colruyt in Belgium. We also work with some consumer organisations and NGOs like the Good Food Institute (GFI). We basically assembled all the different actors in the food system that can help us to create that impact that we owe to the citizens of Europe. Let’s talk about alternative proteins, and how EIT Food has seen the space evolve. We’ve seen a real surge in interest, particularly by the investor community in alternative proteins. Now, just for infor- 23

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