Avebe is part of the Dutch food innovation ecosystem, FoodValley. The new facility aims to spur innovation in potato-based ingredients and foster collaboration between researchers, large businesses and start-ups.
According to FoodValley, the site is located close to the University of Groningen, University Medical Centre Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences and this will allow Avene to work on joint projects.
As well as providing a platform for collaboration with academia, the new facility - which opened last year - includes space for start-ups in the Innolab Agrifood developed by Campus Groningen and partners, FoodValley said. Alongside laboratory facilities, Innolab Agrifood provides support with business development strategy, intellectual property and patenting.
Innovation opening new areas
The investment comes in response to growing interest in potato-based ingredients. Starch technology officer Piet Buwalda said that the area of potato-based ingredients has seen an increase in innovation. The role of potato starch, for example, has evolved from an energy source to a texturiser.
Most recently, potato starch is being looked at for its potential health-promoting ingredient. Future innovations could include the use of novel enzyme-treated potato starch as a dietary fibre to help improve gut health, Buwalda predicted.
“In carbohydrates, we are aiming at health and also cleaner label food products that our customers can use without compromising on quality,” he said. “That’s a big trend in the food industry and it’s also our strategy.”
Nutrition and plant protein drive growth
The global potato protein market is on the rise. According to forecasts from Research and Markets, the sector is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% through to 2022. The market research provider noted that equates to a global revenue value of around €78.5m.
Demand has been driven by increasing interest in vegetable-based protein ingredients and the nutritional profile of potato protein.
The sector is also supported by increasing awareness of food allergens. Potato proteins are free of the most common types of allergen, unlike popular sources of plant protein such as soy and wheat.
Potato protein also offers an attractive nutritional profile. “We are also aiming in the direction of nutritional functionality,” Buwalda said. “The amino acids are all there in the right ratio.”
Avebe has already doubled capacity for production of potato protein, which it sells under the Solanic brand.
Avebe’s other ingredient solutions offer clean label options for a variety of products. In addition to being GMO-free and allergen-free, the group’s potato starches have high and stable water binding capacity. Applications include coatings on fish and meat, vegetarian gelling ingredients for confectionery and a range of texturizing and emulsifying ingredients that can be used in reformulation.