When an ingredient segment is gaining popularity as quickly as plant-based protein, supply chain can become a challenge. Trendy ingredients can be in short supply as acreage doesn’t always have time to keep up with demand.

“Wheat, pea and soy proteins are the most popular and widely used plant-based proteins in the food industry for the reason that they have a long history of food use, provide unique functionalities and have adequate supply, especially of wheat and soy proteins in the market,” said Ody Maningat, PhD, chief science officer and vice president of R&D, MGP Ingredients.

And while pea protein supplies may have been tight last year because of alternative meat demand, availability has improved as production has increased. Companies that supply newer plant sources like quinoa, lentils and chickpeas that are starting to gain ground in the mainstream market will need to shore up their infrastructure.

“Currently pea protein is the ‘sexy’ ingredient,” said John Keaveney, vice president, food ingredients, Purefield. “It has no allergen issues, and acreage is much larger than quinoa and other smaller crops.”

On top of functionality, legacy crops like soy get a boost from their market stability. Allison Leibovich, senior technical services specialist, bakery and snacks, Cargill, said pea protein demand is definitely growing, but the company continues to receive for soy ingredients.

“Globally, soy protein concentrate is the fastest growing plant proteins, and that surprised me,” she said. “It’s a combination of a well-established supply chain, people knowing how to work with it, and ingredient availability.”

Melissa Machen, senior technical services specialist, plant protein, Cargill, agreed: “If we’re thinking about the future and growing population, soy is very economical, functional and a quality protein.”

This article is an excerpt from the November 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on plant-based proteins, click here.