A new report has found New Zealand needs to speed up its response to growing consumer demand for alternative plant-based proteins.
The report was done by FoodHQ, a group which represents New Zealand's food innovation organisations, in partnership with a large food-tech network the Netherlands. It looked at the evolving alternative protein sectors in both countries.
FoodHQ chief executive Abby Thompson said while there was some exciting work happening in New Zealand, the report highlighted some shortcomings in the approach here, compared to the Netherlands.
"They've been very strategic, very deliberate and they've put a lot of investment in there ... there's a lot more scale and scope and focus, whereas in New Zealand, to be completely honest a lot of the companies who are doing this work are entrepreneurial individuals or family groups.
"What this has sort of flagged to us is that ... we're going to get left behind if don't start to take it a bit more seriously and look at how we can work better together," Thompson said.
She said New Zealand needed to have a constructive national "discussion" about how it could develop an alternative protein sector. Global plant-based protein sales rose 17 percent in 2018 and this was a significant new market opportunity for New Zealand food producers, she said.
"There are increasing numbers of people all around the world who have made the decision that they want to eat less meat and dairy and more plant-based proteins.
"This isn't necessarily about them becoming vegan, it's about a protein transition - a change in the balance of where some of their protein is coming from," she said.
While diversification into more plant-based foods needed to happen, it should not be seen as an attack on New Zealand's existing animal protein sector, Thompson said.
"There will always be strong demand for our New Zealand's animal protein products. Our pasture-based farming systems underpin the New Zealand primary sector and they are the envy of other meat and dairy producing nations."