Report on the novel food ecosystem in the Netherlands and synergy with Singapore by RVO

Over 250 companies, as well as public and not-for-profit stakeholders in the Netherlands, are working on the protein shift, creating alternative protein solutions with global impact. These alternative proteins are protein-rich sources, ingredients, intermediates, or final products that can be applied as variations on meat, dairy, fish and eggs.

novel food ecosystem

The three main sources are categorized as follows (for human consumption only) [ref 1]:

  1. Proteins grown on land or in the sea, including plant-based proteins (beans, pulses, nuts, grains) and seaweed;
  2. Proteins produced with the help of microbials, fungi (mycoprotein), algae, and/or cellular agriculture (cultured meat and dairy);
  3. Insect-based proteins.

Compared to traditional meat and dairy products, alternative proteins have, in general, less negative impacts on the environment and therefore, they can tackle climate change effects in a growing global food system. The market of alternative protein production is rapidly expanding. It is estimated to reach USD 140 billion dollars until 2030, which is equivalent to 10% of the world’s USD 1.4 trillion global meat sector [ref 2].

The Netherlands has accomplished great achievements in pioneering the production of alternative proteins. In July 2023, the Netherlands became the first country in the EU that allowed to test cultivated meat [ref 3]. The experience from a longstanding dairy market with extensive knowledge and technology provides a backbone for the development of alternative proteins. Knowledge advancements via pioneering universities is an additional attribute which contributes to a remarkable ecosystem of alternative proteins, as well as emerging business coalitions in this subject. Nonetheless, the Netherlands can learn from other pioneering countries on how to boost its novel food ecosystem to the next level.

One of the main pioneers in the novel food industry is Singapore. The country has a strong ambition, which contributes to a successful management of the protein transition. This is realized by continuous interest from the government in learning with and from businesses, knowledge institutions and organizations, as well as by improving its regulatory system for novel foods. Reaching this step required vision and willingness to collaborate and providing the proper financial incentives.

Although these conditions also exist in the Netherlands, there are lessons to be learned from Singapore which can help further develop the alternative protein ecosystem in the Dutch context. For this reason, the Agricultural Advisor of the Dutch Embassy in Singapore has asked RVO to conduct a desktop study on opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and the Netherlands in accelerating the protein transition, with a focus on novel foods. The main aim of the study is to gain insight into how the Dutch ecosystem in the field of alternative proteins can be better organized to accelerate the protein transition and not lose the Netherlands’ position as a ‘gateway’ to Europe.

In this report, the following sub-questions will be answered:

  • What are the current bottlenecks in the Dutch ecosystem?
  • What are the biggest strengths of the Dutch Ecosystem and strengths-to-be?
  • What can The Netherlands learn from Singapore’s best practices?
  • What is the way forward for cooperation between The Netherlands and Singapore?

Read the full report below.