A plant protein prophecy

by Jeff Gelski
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Pea protein may work in such grain-based foods as waffles.
Pea protein may work in such grain-based foods as waffles.
Courtesy of Bill Phelps

OSKALOOSA, IOWA — Jerry Lorenzen saw a future for plant protein earlier than most people. Think 1985.

“His whole vision of the world was, the world is growing from 6 billion to 10 billion people,” said Tyler Lorenzen, his son. “How are we going to feed everyone in a more sustainable fashion?”

Jerry Lorenzen’s vision germinated into a start-up company that grew steadily. The recent interest in plant protein has provided a headwind. Data from Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands, show global product launches with a plant-based claim climbed to 971 in 2016 from 194 in 2012.

Oskaloosa-based Puris sells seeds to farmers throughout the Midwest to grow non-G.M.O. corn, soy and pulses. Puris then buys back the crops and turns them into plant-based ingredients to sell to food and beverage companies. The family business received a financial jolt this year when Minneapolis-based Cargill invested in the Puris pea protein business, which is headquartered in Minneapolis.

“Exactly how things are playing out today is what he always preached to me as a kid,” Tyler Lorenzen said of his father. “Ultimately what it comes down to is, we want to feed more people better, and if we can do that with peas and pulses, then we’re going to do it.”

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