- Ingredion is investing $140 million in manufacturing facilities in Nebraska and Saskatchewan to produce protein isolates from peas and other pulse-based flours and concentrates.
- The company purchased a South Sioux City, Nebraska soy-processing facility in February and is expanding the plant to enhance its VITESSENCE Pulse protein isolate line. The Saskatchewan project is a joint venture with Verdient Foods and PIC Investment Group. That facility is being upgraded to produce pulse-based protein concentrates and flours from peas, lentils and fava beans for human food applications, the release said.
- "We've identified plant-based proteins as a high-growth, high-value market opportunity that is on-trend with consumers' desire to find sustainable and good tasting alternatives to animal-based proteins," Jim Zallie, Ingredion's president and CEO, said in a release.
Plant-based food is a hot trend, and Ingredion is looking to capitalize on it. These two investments appear to fit well with Ingredion's strategy to expand its lineup of plant-based protein isolates to include peas and other crops such as dried beans, chickpeas and lentils. The company said its focus for this money is on higher-protein isolates primarily for the nutrition, health and wellness categories, where they're used to enrich baked goods, beverages, dairy, snacks, cereals and meat substitutes.
"Being a sustainable and trusted source of plant-based proteins provides us with another major ingredient platform to complement our offerings in clean label, wholesome, texture and nutritional ingredient solutions," Zallie said.
Ingredion's website touts pulse proteins as "a good alternative source of protein and are perfect for consumers who aim to reduce their meat consumption." This taps into today's consumer interest in plant-based foods and beverages as clean-label alternatives that make consumers feel healthier.
HealthFocus data show that 17% of U.S. consumers aged 15 to 70 claim to eat a predominately plant-based diet, while 60% report they're cutting back on meat-based products. Of those reducing their intake of animal-based proteins, 55% say the change is permanent and 22% hope that it is.
And consumers are increasingly putting their money where their mouths are. In 2016, total plant-based meat sales topped $606 million. And from June 2017 to June 2018, retail sales of plant-based foods jumped up 20% to $3.3 billion, according to Nielsen data reported by Food Navigator.
Those numbers could be reflected in Ingredion's new pea proteins since people are also interested in consuming more protein in general. That has meant more protein additions to food and beverages. Some ways they're getting more of the ingredient is through protein-enriched snacks, including thinkThin snack cakes, RXBAR bars and Halo Top ice cream. There are even protein-infused water products such as biPro, Trimino Protein Infused Water and Protein2o. Protein has been added to so many items that Research and Markets has projected the global protein ingredients market could hit $48.77 billion by 2025.
Big meat companies have also been investing in plant-based protein. Tyson Foods bought into plant-based foods manufacturer Beyond Meat in 2016 — a first for a major meat company — and its venture capital arm boosted that investment last year. And Perdue Farms may add some plant-based protein options to its chicken and turkey portfolio, Chairman Jim Perdue told Bloomberg this fall.
Ingredion and other manufacturers such as InnovoPro — which is making a 70% protein concentrate sourced from chickpeas — know they're getting in early on a potentially lucrative ingredient and that getting behind even more plant-based proteins is a smart investment. As long as consumer trends keep going in that direction, there will likely be more products featuring plant-based ingredients in the years ahead.