Investing in plant protein

by Jeff Gelski
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Plant protein
Partnerships and acquisitions provide financial boosts to ingredients based on soy, algae and pulses.

KANSAS CITY — Ingredient suppliers are putting their resources where their plant-based proteins are. Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, in February agreed on an acquisition that should increase its organic and non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. plant protein options. Then TerraVia, San Francisco, an algae-based ingredient supplier, in March revealed a financing round of about $28 million.

This July at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago, Westchester, Ill.-based Ingredion, Inc. plans to launch flavor innovations in plant-based proteins.

Consumer demand for protein in general appears to be increasing. The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey found 64% of respondents said they were trying to consume more protein, which was up from 54% in the 2015 survey.

Another part of the IFIC survey reflected better on plant protein than on animal protein. When asked if their opinion on plant protein had changed over the last year, 8% said they considered it less healthful than they did last year, 21% said more healthful, 54% said their opinion had not changed, and 16% said they were not sure. The answers for animal protein were 15% less healthful, 12% more healthful, 58% no change, and 14% not sure.

FONA International, Geneva, Ill., in May released a category insight report that shone a positive light on plant protein. FONA International cited Mintel Global New Products Database’s findings that the number of global food launches containing pea protein increased by more than 80% between 2013 and 2015. In the United States, pea protein, rice protein, chia seed and quinoa are rising in use in protein snack bars, according to Mintel data.

For another positive reflection on plant protein, the percentage of vegan claims in protein snack bars in the United States was 24% in the time period of April 2015 to March 2016, up from 19% in the 2013-14 period, according to Mintel data in the FONA International report.

Plant protein
More protein snack bar launches are featuring plant protein.
“Added protein shows no sign of diminishing in the consumer’s mind,” said Lesley Nicholson, marketing manager for ADM. “The flexitarian/vegetarian trend is growing. People want more protein while reducing the amount of animal protein in their diets.”

ADM offers plant protein sources in its soy protein ingredients and VegeFull bean ingredients. The company has agreed to purchase a controlling stake in Harvest Innovations, which uses expeller pressing to turn grains, legumes and oilseeds into non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O., organic, gluten-free ingredients. Products made from such ingredients include non-G.M.O. soy chips, expeller-pressed soy flour, textured vegetable protein, organic soy crisps and gluten-free flours and pastas.

“This addition to the already extensive ADM line of plant protein ingredients means we can help our customers formulate to whatever specification they need, be that protein levels, clean labeling, non-G.M.O. or organic,” Ms. Nicholson said.

Ms. Nicholson said soy chips and crisps may be customized for a variety of applications.

“Because we can offer protein options in a variety of different types, shapes and sizes, we can provide customers a lot of flexibility and options to add protein to their unique product,” she said. “Bars, cereals and snack mixes are some of the primary applications we see from our customers, but the options are really endless.”

Algae-based protein ingredients soon may become more prominent. Solazyme, San Francisco, on March 11 announced it was changing its name to TerraVia and that it had entered into a purchase agreement for a strategic financing round of about $28 million in newly issued, no-coupon convertible preferred shares.

VMG Partners, a private equity fund, was one of the companies investing in the supplier of algae-based ingredients. VMG Partners and TerraVia on April 5 said they had launched TerraBrands, a new venture that combines VMG Partners’ investment capital with TerraVia’s algae-based food and nutrition platform. TerraBrands will target investing in or acquiring established lower middle-market companies in the food, pet and nutrition segments. TerraBrands will look to incorporate TerraVia’s ingredients into products and brands.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., in June 2014 entered into an agreement with AGT Foods (then known as Alliance Grain Traders, Inc.) to distribute AGT’s pulse flours, protein and bran ingredients.

“AGT Food’s global leadership in the sourcing and processing of pulses complements Ingredion’s focus on application expertise and innovation to provide customers with a secure supply chain and the formulation support necessary to help our customers develop on trend market products utilizing pulse ingredients,” said Pat O’Brien, manager, strategic business development for Ingredion and based in the company’s Bridgewater, N.J., office. “The pulse ingredients are an excellent complement to Ingredion’s range of clean label texturizers, sweeteners and nutritional ingredients. The broad product portfolio, in combination with the application, sensory and culinology services offered at Ingredion’s network of Idea Labs innovation centers allows us the ability to deliver solutions that address a number of trends in the food industry today.

“Working with our partners, AGT Foods, our pulse applications team has developed close to 50 formulations across a number of application areas such as pasta, bakery and snacks, batter and breading systems, soups, sauces, dressings and beverages, which can be used as a starting point for our customers that are working to incorporate pulse ingredients into their products or develop new products utilizing pulse ingredients.”

Addressing taste issues will remain a key point in advancing the use of plant proteins.

Ingredion will launch a series of clean-taste pulse ingredients at the I.F.T. event July 16-19, Mr. O’Brien said. The bland flavor profile of the ingredients will make them easier to incorporate into applications.

Pulses may have a natural, bean flavor profile.

“In certain applications the flavor profile may be desired while in other applications product developers may prefer a bland flavor profile,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Ingredion has the technical and applications support to help customers achieve the flavor profile they desire when working with pulse ingredients.”

ADM researchers, when working on plant protein taste issues, may turn to the company’s Wild Flavors and Specialty Ingredients business. ADM acquired Wild Flavors GmbH in October 2014.

“Our recent acquisition of Wild Flavors allows us to provide flavor modification technology and customized flavor development for each and every application when it’s needed for our customers,” Ms. Nicholson said.

 

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