Finland's Paulig acquires majority stake in vegetarian 'pulled oats' start-up
In a joint statement, Paulig and Gold&Green Foods said the focus would now be to expand capacity to meet the high demand in Finland while launching its products on the international market starting in neighbouring Nordic countries.
Gold&Green Foods had annual sales of €2m but that demand for its pulled oats was 20 times greater than this in Finland alone. CEO and co-founder told FoodNavigator it hoped local demand could now be met by next spring or summer.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed but the deal certainly propels the young start-up into a different league.
Gold&Green Foods was founded just last year by Maija Itkonen, Reetta Kivelä and Zhongqing Jiang and its first products hit Finnish supermarket shelves in May 2016. The acquisition will allow Gold&Green Foods to keep control as an independent unit.
Itkonen did not mince her words, saying deal would create the prerequisites for pulled oats “to conquer the world”, and would free up resources for new product development.
“In it’s heart Gold&Green Foods is a tech company, developing technologies and new product innovations that bring added value to the consumers. Manufacturing in volumes and building factories is a very different thing," she told us.
"We believe this collaboration is crucial from many viewpoints; bringing Gold&Green the manufacturing and distribution muscles, and bringing Paulig the food tech know-how and innovation skills."
Plant-based protein: We need real innovations, not just new branding
Meanwhile family-owned Paulig said it sees the acquisition as a “natural continuation” of its recent strong investment in natural and healthy foods under the brand Risenta. The group’s CEO Jaana Tuominen said: “People are more and more conscious of their eating habits. We are convinced that the popularity of the pulled oats will only increase.”
Paulig is not the only large food manufacturer to ride the plant-based wave by buying up smaller companies. French dairy giant Danone recently acquired US almond and soy milk brand White Wave in a $12.5bn deal (€11.2bn) in July while last year British mycoprotein manufacturer Quorn was snapped up by Filipino company Nissin Monde for £550m (€653m).
The demand for products made with plant-based protein is on the increase, fuelled by growing numbers of people who identify themselves as flexitarian. So is it an increasingly competitive space between companies?
"There is definitely space for new products!," said Itkonen. "We hope to see more 'real innovations', i.e. new proteins, new textures and new compositions, not just new branding.
"Also, the protein quality and quantity are super important - but often not truly mastered in the new concepts. We hope that pulled oats can raise the bar a bit and work as a reference for the newcomers."
So what are pulled oats?
Made from oats, broad beans and peas using a proprietary, patent-protected shear technology, Gold&Green Foods's pulled oats contain almost one third protein while the oats mean it is rich in beta glucan fibre which has an authorised EU health claim for maintaining normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The ingredients are non-GMO and sourced from Europe, with the oats and beans grown in the Nordic region and the peas sourced from Central Europe (“until 100% Nordic pea protein is available”, says the firm). Soy has been consciously shunned due to its links with GM technology and rainforest habitat loss.
The preservative-free products come in three flavours: tomato, smoked paprika and parsley; keffir lime, sesame and ginger; and plain.
Paulig reported net profits of €905m in 2015 and employs 1,900 employees in 13 countries, with key divisions in coffee, snacks, ‘naturally healthy’ foods and flavourings.