This is the second major investment the company has made this year, after announcing in January plans to build a €300m factory site in Manitoba, Canada.
As well being one of the biggest global producers of peas, the North American market for pea protein is the biggest.
Speaking to FoodNavigator from New York, where he was participating in a roundtable discussion on plant-based proteins at Future Food Tech, Pascal Leroy, head of Roquette’s pea business, said the €40m investment would begin in the second half of this year, continuing throughout 2018 so that, by January 2019, the Vic-sur-Aisnesite site would be operating at full capacity.
The volume increase in supply will occur progressively until then, with the increased capacity at the French facility helping support global demand – particularly in the North American market – until the Manitoba plant is operational.
When both sites – Manitoba and Vic-sur-Aisne– are fully up and running, Roquette will be able to produce 250,000 tonnes a year.
A number of jobs will be created during the construction phase – recruited from the local community, said Leroy – but there are no plans to take on permanent staff beyond this.
The peas, which are sourced from France “as much as possible” and, failing that, from elsewhere in Europe, are destined for a wide range of formulations, said Leroy, from nutrition bars to pasta, cereal snacks to veggie food. Clinical and sports nutrition are also big target areas because peas are a great source of protein both from a qualitative and quantitative point of view, he added.
While this €40m injection will be invested solely in processing equipment to increase the site’s production capacity, Leroy said the firm had a programme of continual research and development.
“We have plans to become a leader in plant-based protein so have some developments regarding other types of protein, but it’s too early to say what the potential candidates are.
“We try to understand the trends and translate the needs of our customers to be in the position to deliver what people need. If organic, for example, as a trend is strong enough then we will answer that.”
CEO of the company Jean-Marc Gilson, saidthe investment was “significant” and an important step in the firm’s growth strategy. “By increasing our processing capacity in the pea protein segment, we address a large and growing demand for plant-based nutrition solutions and we reinforce our leadership on this segment.”
Roquette, which has around 40 patents related to pea processing under its belt, uses water-based process to deal with the off-taste issues inherent with pea protein isolate.
“Pea protein is quite a new product – only ten years’ old – so it’s still a newcomer. We’re still trying to optimise the taste and increase our patent activity to protect our know-how.”