Plant protein: Processing giant looks to fava beans

Demand for plant-based proteins has been fueled by producers such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

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    Fava beans are being considered as a large potential source of plant-based protein as demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives to meat increases [File: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg]
    Fava beans are being considered as a large potential source of plant-based protein as demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives to meat increases [File: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg]

    One of the world’s biggest pea processors is considering expanding into fava beans as the boom in alternative proteins fuels demand for special crops.

    France’s Roquette Freres SA is exploring processing the beans as consumers increasingly turn toward plant-based meats as well as substitute proteins in sports nutrition drinks and other beverages, said Jean-Philippe Azoulay, the company’s head of peas and new proteins.

    While the pulse market is tiny compared with crops like wheat and soy, demand is on the rise amid interest in plant-based proteins brought about by Beyond Meat Inc. and Impossible Foods Inc. For decades, vegetarians and vegans have been the main market for such proteins, but that’s now changing as consumers seek to diversify diets and opt for more environmentally friendly options.

    “We are already looking beyond peas,” Azoulay said in an interview at the Future Food-Tech Innovation & Investment summit in London. “The fava bean seems to be the most promising today, but it’s still a work in progress.”

    Roquette is also looking at expanding into processing lentils, mung beans, oats and rice, Azoulay said.

    The closely held company extracts protein from peas, which is then used to make products such as vegan burgers, and has an agreement to supply Beyond Meat this year. To tap rising demand, it plans to more than double its pea-processing capacity from about 100,000 tons, and is building a plant in Canada’s Manitoba province that’s scheduled to start production late next year.

    Roquette could use its current plants if it expands into fava beans, which are also known as faba or broad beans, because processing uses the same techniques and facilities as peas.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg