The specialist plant protein and fibre producer planned to increase turnover from €80m to €150m in the next five years on the back of increasing demands for soluble fibres and sustainable plant-based proteins, and an increased interest in pursuing wider partnerships that would allow the firm to better serve its global customer base, said company CEO Jacques Crahay at the inauguration of a new pea protein unit at its Warcoing facility in Belgium.
The €30m investment would enable the firm to meet growing demands for pea protein in different markets, he said – adding that Cosucra anticipated growth in existing markets.
“We have to be ambitious, but that doesn’t tell you the way that it will happen,” commented Crahay. “The markets change quite often. Every six months there can be a market that you have been working for two or three years, and then it starts to grow.”
He added: “When it grows, and especially when you have such large countries like India, China or the USA, you have to be ready for that […] Otherwise you lose the market because you do not have the capacity to follow.
“In our mind, we built a capacity that is of course for the next ten years, maybe less – but still enough to be present and get the leadership on these markets.”
However, the family-owned company would also look to grow turnover by partnering with ‘complimentary’ suppliers and those that could help to deliver better taste or functionality to its existing ingredient lines, said Crahay.
While there were no current partnerships announced in the public arena, it was an area that Cosucra wanted to develop as a means to grow, said the CEO – adding that the company was looking to leverage its distribution network to partner with companies that made complimentary products such as other vegetable proteins or soluble fibres.
“There are much more opportunities to develop partnerships in the way of supplying and distributing other products, that we do not produce ourselves […] but that we could give the opportunity for other suppliers that maybe don’t have the same global distribution network,” he said.
“It could [also] be using other products that we do make, but we do not do specific applications for. For instance pea starch could be an opportunity for us to develop together with another manufacturer.”
However, when asked about the potential for partnerships involving other emerging protein sources like microalgae and insect protein, Crahay said such protein sources were still in early phases.
“It seems a bit too early for us to jump in to that business. There is first development work to do with other vegetable proteins.”
Indeed, he said the rapid development of other vegetable protein sources that could perhaps be seen as a rival to pea protein was not adding pressure to the business, but instead offered ‘opportunity’ as any partnerships could probably be based on different sources that were not well known.
New applications and technologies
Heidi Jacobs, director of R&D and QA at Cosucra, also said the company saw ‘clear opportunities’ in using protein for specific nutritional needs, such as sports nutrition and medical nutrition.
“Foods for the elderly are also a market that is expanding a lot, and where there are clear needs for high-protein foods for customers,” she told us. “Also in medical nutrition and clinical foods, proteins are essential and I think in general there is a big demand in diversifying the protein sources – going from animal protein to vegetable protein and looking within those for clean label solutions.”
Crahay noted that plant-based proteins such as pea may also offer a cost-cutting benefit for manufacturers of medical foods – adding that animal based solutions could be approximately three times more expensive than a plant-based solution.
She said the firm was also working on a variety of R&D projects that were trying to develop new functionalities.
“The most recent, launched last year, was specifically developed for bakery applications. But we have many ongoing projects,” she said – adding that taste remained a key challenge.
In this respect, Jacobs confirmed that the Belgium-based supplier was looking at new encapsulation technologies that could deliver better on flavour while packing a nutritional punch.
She said the firm was currently discussing different options internally, with company CEO Crahay adding that one idea for a future partnership could be to work with a flavour company that could deliver different encapsulation and delivery systems for pea protein.
Currently, such partnerships were generally focused around the manufacturer that used the ingredient, and did not happen with an ingredient supplier, said Crahay.
“That is a way that we could give a service to our customers.”