Using sunflower press cakes as a raw material, a by-product from the sunflower oil industry that contains around 39% protein, the Moscow-headquartered firm extracts three higher value ingredients: protein concentrate, fibre and polysaccharides.
Using a patent-protected mechanical separation techniques and ultrafiltration membranes to ‘collect’ the protein – a process that its technical technical partner, Danish company Alfa Laval, spent one year designing – concentrations of up to 95% food-grade protein are possible.
“We can even get to up to 95% but it was too expensive to produce so 80% is more economically efficient,” said the company’s commercial director Nikita Golikov, speaking on the sidelines of FoodNavigator's Protein Vision conference in Amsterdam last week. Golikov noted that other manufacturers typically get around 50 to 55%.
“Our philosophy is very simple: the best food designed not by us, it’s designed by nature," Golikov told FoodNavigator. "We do not play with composition,” said Golikov. “Through the mechanical separation we take away fibre, fat and saccharides from the protein and concentrate maximum vitamins, protein and energy.”
The company already exports to the EU, US and China, targeting categories such as sport nutrition, functional food product, dietary nutrition, bars and bakery.
The soluble powder, called SunProtein, have an 18-month shelf-life and are available in either green or light cream colours. The difference in colour is achieved using a “softer” extraction process, Golikov said, but nutritionally the powders are identical.
The amino acid profile also beats whey and soy, meaning it is a more nutritionally complete plant-based protein, as well as being non-allergenic and lactose free.
“It’s changing the world a little bit. There is a trend for alternative sources of protein and we can offer something interesting.”
It has a sister company located near the Altai plant which presses seeds for oil and supplies the GM-free press cakes.
Golikov said BioTechnologies gets lots of requests from other extraction companies to sell its technology but it is patent-protected and, in any case, the cost can be prescriptive. It invested €18 million in the Altai plant.
“Everyone wants to go for the high-value sunflower oil but doesn’t know what to do with the by-product,” he said.
“At the minute 50% are going to feed and the rest are trying to export or doing something with the press cakes but most of them are burning them. It’s not efficient.”
Its first plant, located in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, has a production capacity of 6,000 tons per year while a second plant near the Russian and Belarusian border is currently under construction and set to open next year.