Roquette invests $13M in plant protein R&D center

Dive Brief:

  • Ingredients maker Roquette has opened an R&D accelerator for plant proteins in Vic-sur-Aisne, France. The company, which invested about $13 million in the more than 21,000-square-foot facility, will develop new pea and wheat proteins at the center to “bring plant-based innovation up to a new level,” according to a press release.
  • Roquette also intends to add “several new sources of protein” to its portfolio every five years based on work done at the R&D center. The new facility opens as Roquette readies what it described as the world’s largest pea protein plant, under construction in Canada, and set to start production before the end of 2021.
  • As demand has grown for peas and other alternative proteins, Roquette’s recent investments demonstrate its belief in further growth potential for plant-based ingredients and its effort to maintain its leadership position as more players enter the fold.

Dive Insight:

Roquette has manufactured and sold various protein ingredients made with yellow split peas, wheat, corn, and potatoes since its founding in 1933. Its Nutralys Textured Pea Proteins come in a range of different textures and shapes, and are used in a variety of products, including plant-based chicken tenders, burgers and milk.

And peas will remain a core focus for Roquette. It is currently constructing a 67-acre plant in Winnipeg, Canada, as part of a $600 million investment in pea protein production. In 2017, the company told Food Dive that the ingredient’s high protein content and sustainability are part of its appeal.

Pea protein has been dominant in recent years, and has attracted huge sums of investment from other ingredients manufacturers. An executive at Ingredion, which invested $185 million in the pulse last year, told Food Dive that manufacturers are looking for peas to “go into just about every application you can possibly imagine, from cereals and snacks to beverages and meat alternatives.”

Cargill invested $75 million in a Minnesota production center dedicated to pea protein in a partnership with Puris that is set to open this year. Puris harvests and develops the ingredient to be used in plant-based products such as Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burgers. Tyler Lorenzen, CEO of Puris, told Food Dive in 2020 of the company’s plans to innovate use of the pea, including pea syrup for drinks and ice cream.

But as demand for alternative proteins continues to grow, manufacturers are looking for the next big thing. Last year, Kerry launched 13 different plant-based protein ingredients, made with peas, rice, and sunflower seeds, aiming to improve the taste and nutrition of plant-based products in order to attract wider adoption among more consumers.

Roquette’s investment in its new R&D facility shows that the company also sees plenty of potential to grow and innovate beyond pea protein. The company uses fava beans to produce plant-based burgers, sausages, and meatballs. And it has partnered with plant-based pioneers such as NotCo, which sells its NotMilk dairy alternative in the U.S., and was winner of the Roquette Innovation Challenge. The French ingredients company will provide its R&D expertise to NotCo to co-develop new products.

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