KANSAS CITY — Precision fermentation and canola protein may accelerate plant protein innovation. Seaweed protein also may make a splash in the future.

The plant protein category by no means has stayed in the slow lane. MarketsandMarkets, Northbrook, Ill., estimated the global plant-based protein market at $12.2 billion in 2022 and forecasts it to generate a compound annual growth rate of 7.3% between 2022 and 2027, reaching $17.4 billion.

Precision fermentation may accelerate product development in the plant-based category. ICL Food Specialties, a division of Tel Aviv, Israel-based ICL Specialty Products Inc., and Protera Biosciences, a food technology startup and designer of novel proteins, formed a partnership late in 2022. ICL and Protera plan to develop and commercialize protein-based ingredients using precision fermentation.

Protera’s Madi platform predicts and matches the structure and functionality of vegetable proteins. The platform designs proteins from a database of over 1.5 billion edible protein sequences and applies precise fermentation parameters for producing the proteins. The new ingredients may replace texturizers, stabilizers and preservatives.

“These proteins can be produced in large scale by Protera’s precision fermentation technology using sugars as the main raw material,” said Rado Sporka, vice president of the food specialties commercial business for ICL. “The production process is similar to traditional fermentation process for alcoholic beverage production.”

The ingredients should become available in the next few years once regulatory approvals are received, he said.

ADM, Chicago, has invested in precision fermentation as well.

“We know how important fermentation and precision fermentation are to the growing alternative protein landscape,” said Leticia Goncalves, president of global foods for ADM. “As such, we’re helping to spur activity with ‘fermentation-as-a-service.’ While extensive capabilities in food-grade fermentation are required for the processing, lab services and consulting needs of food and beverage companies, fermentation-as-a-service helps push innovation forward more efficiently.”

ADM and the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform, which focuses on accelerating the commercialization of sustainable foods in Asia, in 2022 inaugurated their joint venture company called ScaleUp Bio. The joint venture will provide contract development and manufacturing organization services for precision fermentation for food applications.

Hello, canola protein

Many in the food industry may associate canola with edible oils, but canola also has emerged as a source of plant protein.

Royal DSM, Delft, The Netherlands, in November 2022 launched Vertis CanolaPro, a canola protein isolate. CanolaPro has been shown to improve the bite and texture of meat and fish alternatives, and it creates a smoother mouthfeel in dairy alternatives and performance nutrition products, according to DSM. The ingredient has a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of 1, which is on par with soy or whey.

CanolaPro and Avril Group, a processor and financer in the vegetable oils and protein sector based in France, formed a joint venture that produces CanolaPro at a facility in Dieppe, France.

Merit Functional Foods, Winnipeg, Man., already offers canola protein ingredients. The company opened a 94,000-square-foot plant-based protein facility in Winnipeg early in 2021. The facility processes both pea and canola.

On the horizon

P&S Intelligence, New York, estimated the worldwide seaweed protein market to be about $513.7 million in 2021 and forecast it to have a CAGR of 12% from 2021 to 2030, reaching $1.4 billion by 2030. The food sector accounted for over 80% of the total income from the sale of seaweed proteins in 2021, according to the company.

“On the horizon, we will see emerging plant protein sources like algae, sunflower, lupin, chickpea and ancient grains, including amaranth and sorghum, incorporated into various alternative formulations,” said Ms. Goncalves of ADM. “However, these sources don’t have mainstream awareness, and it will take time for them to gain the same general consumer recognition as conventional sources like soy, wheat and pea.”

ADM has invested in Nature’s Fynd, which is leveraging fungi to help produce fermented mycoprotein.

Cellular or cultured meat may impact the plant protein category as well. ADM is supporting Believer Meats in its development of cultivated meats that are grown in a laboratory from animal cells, said Allyson Fish, president of alternative proteins for ADM.

“Additionally, as technology advances, we anticipate there will also be an uptick in blends and hybrids of plant and cultured sources, plant and fermented sources, and more,” Ms. Fish said. “Blending unfamiliar sources with familiar ones helps create a lower barrier of entry for consumers, leading to heightened future acceptance. This is similar to the way many people originally accepted alternative offerings, as many offerings were created from hybrids of animal protein and plant protein. This trend has the potential to re-emerge to drive consumer acceptance and support the expanding alternative protein arena.”