Roquette facility to address growing global pea protein demand

The French company’s new facility will complement an existing one in France and look to meet growing demand for pea protein.

Construction will begin later this year on what is slated to be the world’s largest pea-processing facility, designed to help meet growing global demand for plant-based proteins.

Roquette, a French family-owned provider of specialty food ingredients, announced last week that it has invested C$400 million ($300 million; €280 million) in the construction of a pea-protein manufacturing site in Manitoba, Canada.

Roquette sells pea protein under its Nutralys brand and production at the Manitoba facility is expected to begin in 2019.

“The pea protein market is very attractive and demand for plant proteins for human nutrition is growing tremendously, driven by health consciousness, consumer concerns, and sustainability,” according to a company statement. “Pea protein offers many advantages to farmers, customers and consumers, as its production in environmentally friendly and it is a great source of protein.”

Canada is home to about 30 percent of global pea production and in addition to input supply considerations, the decision to build the plant in Manitoba was motivated by the region’s strong infrastructure, competitive electricity prices and educated workforce, according to the statement.

In 2014, Roquette signed a distribution agreement with World Food Processing of Iowa to help meet demand for pea protein in North America.

The protein content of peas can vary between 15 and 35 percent, according to the USDA and proteins derived from peas are used as a supplement in a variety of products including snacks and cereals, sports and slimming foods, nutritional products, vegetarian foods, and meat products as well as gluten-free foods, soups and sauces.

Pea protein is a key ingredient in several of the products offered by Beyond Meat, a California-based provider of plant-based foods that has attracted investments from Obvious Ventures, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Tyson Foods.

Global demand for pea protein is expected to grow at a 13.5 percent annual rate through 2023, reaching 33 kilos, according to an April report by Global Market Insights.

The growing consumer demand for healthy and sustainable food cited by Roquette as propelling the pea protein market is a trend that informed many recent private investments in the sector. In 2014, Pinnacle Foods paid $154 million to TSG Consumer Partners for plant-based protein provider Gardein Protein International.

A desire to capture part of the burgeoning market for new concepts in food has also inspired large, established food companies, including Tyson Foods, Campbell’s Soup, General Mills and others, to establish distinct venture funds for supporting early stage ventures in food.

Earlier this month, Kellogg’s food venture fund, eighteen94 capital, announced it had participated in a $4.25 million funding round for Kuli Kuli, company offering products derived from moringa, another plant protein.