Israel Chemicals, Ltd., will invest about $20 million to expand manufacturing capacity and R&D support for its Rovitaris protein technology for the meat alternatives market. ICL is a global specialty minerals and chemicals company based in Tel Aviv.
The company said in a release that Rovitaris is a proprietary technology developed to support the production of allergen-free plant-based food products. The ingredient can be adapted to any meat, poultry or seafood alternatives to improve taste and texture, ICL said, and it also can retain stability when frozen and thawed to help reduce manufacturing costs.
ICL noted its technology can be used in conjunction with a broad variety of vegetable protein sources, with upcoming launches and line expansions including textured vegetable crumbles to add to the company's existing offerings of proteins sourced from peas and fava beans.
Once ICL signs new supply agreements with partners and customers in key global markets such as Europe, North America and South America, the company said it expects to put the additional funds toward expanding capabilities in the fast-growing meat alternatives market.
Citing food industry experts, ICL said the total market for plant-based meat alternatives exceeded $4 billion last year and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7% to more than 9%. ResearchAndMarkets expects the global meat substitute market to do even better than that, reaching $7.5 billion by 2025. The research firm noted Europe dominated this market in 2017, comprising 38.5% of total revenue, so ICL's focus on that area could make financial sense.
ICL said its Rovitaris ingredient technology enables food manufacturers to create customized plant-based meat alternatives with flavor profiles "virtually indistinguishable from their traditional meat counterparts." It has applications for burgers, hot dogs, deli meats, nuggets and fish sticks, the company said, which results in "on-trend innovation in the form of alternative protein solutions for vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian consumers." ICL does not reveal its proprietary technology behind the ingredient.
The company has been working on different iterations of this ingredient for years. Versions of Rovitaris that work well with dairy and soy-free spreads — including vegan mayonnaise, dips and sauces — were touted at conferences in 2016. Like the version the company wants to better develop for meat alternatives, this form of the ingredient was put together to improve texture and mouthfeel — as well as emulsification stability.
Plant-based protein ingredients are a major growth area for the food and beverage industry, so ICL might be looking to augment earnings in its agriculture and engineered materials business segments with this new investment. In its most recent earnings report, ICL reported a 4% drop in sales in its phosphate solutions segment — where the Rovitaris line is classified — compared to 2018, but profits in the segment increased 3%. According to a transcript of CEO Raviv Zoller's earnings call, this segment suffered from volatile commodity costs.
ICL is certainly not alone in pursuing and expanding the category.
Competitors in this market include Motif Ingredients, which Ginkgo Bioworks recently launched with a $90 million funding round from outside investors, and DuPont Nutrition & Health, with its line of soy and pea protein nuggets for use in snacks, cereals, nutrition bars and toppings. Other ingredients companies tapping into the trend include Cargill and Ingredion.
It remains to be seen how well ICL can compete with these other plant-based protein ingredient manufacturers, and it may have to inject additional funds into the Rovitaris product to find out. But since Rovitaris won the most innovative ingredient award at last year's Food Ingredients South America trade show, it may be able to leverage such publicity into a higher profile in this increasingly competitive space.