- Puris Holdings is partnering with Livekindly Collective on a pair of joint ventures to accelerate adoption of plant-based nutrition by solving some of the biggest challenges in the supply chain, the companies said in a statement. They did not disclose the finances of either venture.
- The first joint venture will focus on agriculture to find ways to bring protein-rich as well as plant- and soil-friendly crops to other parts of the world. The companies will combine Puris' insight into protein from peas with Livekindly's expertise in southern Africa to try growing the legume in the region and provide farmers there with a new crop that generates income and improves soil health.
- The second partnership will focus on developing ways to reduce waste as crops are turned into food. By doing so, the companies said they can bring more plant-based offerings to new people, lower the cost for the food and make growing peas and other crops more enticing for farmers. “We are facing an existential question of how to feed ourselves in the face of growing demand, diminishing resources and the need for sustainability," Mark Hassenkamp, chief agriculture operations director of Livekindly Collective, said in a statement.
When Puris started selling its pea protein ingredients in 2014 for use in food and beverages, the company found its biggest obstacle wasn't in the lab, but in overcoming the stigma surrounding other foods containing peas. Now, the company is finding it's less about overcoming that negative perception of peas and other plant-based ingredients and more about laying the groundwork to ensure more consumers will be able to eat them.
"This partnership is not looking at the next two years, it's looking at the next 50 years. We're going to see a shift in diets to be more heavily favored on plant proteins," said Nicole Atchison, Puris Holdings' CEO, about the joint ventures with Livekindly. "There needs to be a shift in the supply chain to support that. It's one piece of a very, very big puzzle."
Atchison said while attention rightly needs to focus on creating the plant-based ingredients, getting the supply chain in place to sustain its growth is equally important. Plants need to be grown in different regions and climates around the world where temperatures, growing seasons and soil conditions can determine how well a particular commodity will thrive. Atchison said additional partnerships among companies throughout various points of the supply chain will be needed, and Puris is on the lookout for more ventures of its own.
From meat to milk and ice cream to cheese, plant-based foods have exploded in popularity in recent years, a growth trajectory that is gaining momentum during the pandemic as consumers look to eat healthier and become more concerned about issues like sustainability. As demand increases, it stands to reason that farmers will need to grow more food — with fewer resources.
Growth of plant-based protein and meat alternatives, for example, is projected to increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030, according to investment firm UBS. In recent months, companies have launched a variety of products, from plant-based burgers to faux chicken nuggets, to get a bigger presence in the alternative protein space.
"We do feel that this is a challenge that the industry has been looking at and needs to look at to grow plant proteins at a scale that is going to matter" for climate change and what we need for a global food system, Atchison said.
As growth in the plant-based category has taken off, a few partnerships have been unveiled as companies seek to tap into their respective expertise to get an advantage.
Last year, Archer Daniels Midland and beef processor Marfrig Global Foods established a joint venture called PlantPlus Foods to create plant-based products in North American and South American markets. Nestlé announced a collaboration with two Canadian plant-based protein companies to more quickly develop meat and dairy alternatives with a favorable environmental footprint. In 2019, animal-free ingredients company Motif FoodWorks said it was partnering with the University of Queensland in Australia to study the physics of how to improve the texture of plant-based foods.
As more food, agriculture and ingredient companies enter the ultra-competitive plant-based space, there is plenty of market share to be had, but increasingly, just being plant based won't be enough. Consumers will continue to want more information about what goes into making the product and have plant-based offerings that taste, look and feel like their conventional animal counterpart. With consumers clamoring for more plants, the partnerships that have been announced so far are likely just the beginning.