Meatless Farm, Equinom tie-up on high-protein yellow pea: ‘Food companies have merely scratched the surface when it comes to yellow peas’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Equinom's yellow pea seeds are higher in protein / Pic: GettyImages Oleksandr_K
Equinom's yellow pea seeds are higher in protein / Pic: GettyImages Oleksandr_K

Related tags equinom plant-based meatless Meatless Farm

Israeli seed developer Equinom and plant-based business Meatless Farm have announced a tie up to leverage Equinom’s high-protein yellow pea varieties.

Meatless Farm’s ingredient division, Lovingly Made Ingredients, will work alongside Equinom to commercialise ‘new ingredients’ using Equinom’s yellow pea seed varieties and Lovingly Made Ingredient’s processing capabilities, we were told.

“Lovingly Made Ingredients will be producing the textured pea protein…. These new ingredients will be used in Meatless Farm’s products as well as others. In addition to producing ingredients for the Meatless Farm, Lovingly Made Ingredients will also act as an independent ingredient company selling to the broader market,” ​Avichai Amrad, Projects and Partnerships Manager at Equinom, told FoodNavigator.

Unleashing the potential of yellow pea

Today, yellow pea is the fastest-growing source of protein for plant-based meat alternatives, Equinom claimed.

According to forecasts from research provider FMI, the yellow pea protein food processing market was valued at US$861.4 million in 2020 and is expected to grow to US$1.5 billion by the end of 2030.

Yellow pea protein ingredients are forecast a compound annual growth rate of 7.1% over the forecast period, FMI said. This is supported by the nutritional benefits that yellow pea offers. These include: blood sugar regulation, weight management, and maintaining cholesterol levels. Yellow pea proteins are rich in antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic compounds and anti-inflammatory compounds, which support the health of blood vessels.

Equinom hopes to ‘disrupt’ the yellow pea market by delivering unique traits through its non-GMO seed development. The company, which produces novel grains to create ‘higher quality’ ingredients, has been working on yellow pea since 2015.

“Equinom has developed these new non-GMO, non-gene edited yellow pea varieties using its proprietary platforms such as genomic optimization algorithms, AI application profiler and unique database as well as computational and conventional (traditional) breeding practices,”​ Amrad explained, adding that there are no regulatory restraints on Equinom’s products.

GettyImages-Oleksandr Yuchynskji sprouting yellow peas
Breeding 'better' yellow peas / Pic: GettyImages-Oleksandr Yuchynskji

The group’s work in yellow pea includes a strategic breeding process in Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the US.

“Until now, food companies have merely scratched the surface when it comes to yellow peas,”​ explained Oswald Crasta, Vice President of Research and Development of Equinom. “Through our extensive research and dedication, we have unlocked a world of possibilities that are set to pave the way for future plant-based innovations.”

According to Equinom, the company was able to increase protein content in its pea varieties by over 30% - nearly 50% more than what's currently in the market. “We expect to find additional functional benefits as we progress through the testing in Meatless Farm’s food applications,”​ Amrad told us.

Reducing the carbon footprint of plant-based

Meatless Farm’s products include plant-based alternative mince, chicken, sausages and burger patties. From launching in the UK in 2016, the brand has extended its global reach to 20 countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the UAE. 

On average, Meatless Farms' products use 90% less land and 70-80% water to produce versus their meat counterparts, the plant-based brand revealed. 

Leveraging Equinom’s unique yellow pea varieties will allow the company to move further along this sustainability journey. Equinom claimed that, by switching to its yellow pea ingredient, Meatless’ Lovingly Made Ingredients business will lower the carbon footprint of the ingredients it produces.

Firstly, we were told, this will be achieved because Lovingly Made Ingredients will be switching from using a protein isolate to a concentrate. The environmental impact of protein isolates is typically greater than that of concentrates, one of the reasons for this is that the production of isolates often requires a higher crop input. The drying process for the isolates also needs a higher energy input than for protein concentrates.

But, beyond this, Equinom’s unique yellow pea varieties provide additional environmental gains.

Amrad elaborated: “I think a very clear explanation can come from talking about the efficiency increase of the starting material, which leads to a reduced carbon footprint. More protein in a bean equals more protein per acre for more efficient protein farming. More protein in bean [also equates to] reducing transportation because the same volume will give you more protein. More protein in the bean [results in] more efficient ingredient production because you will need to process less beans for more protein.”

Equinom is also committed to cultivating the peas ‘closer to the ingredient production facility’ to reduce transportation requirements further, the partnerships manager explained.

GettyImages-Bobex-73 pulses legumes peas field
Equinom claims its yellow peas are more environmentally friendly / Pic: GettyImages-Bobex-73

Morten Toft Bech, Founder of Meatless Farm, said that the collaboration with Equinom will help Meatless as it strives towards its Net Zero ambitions. 

“We are impressed by the level of research Equinom has done to bring the most nutritious and sustainable plant-based ingredients to market and their ability to naturally breed seeds efficiently,”​ Bech reflected.  

“We are committed to creating a more sustainable global food system from field to fork and partnering with Equinom takes us a step closer to reaching a net zero supply chain. The higher protein content of our products will also help achieve our mission to help people reduce their meat consumption by providing credible plant-based swaps for meat that are accessible and still taste great.

"Ultimately, a better seed makes better peas for us to create more nutritious and delicious plant based food that are kinder to our planet.”

Partnering for growth: Equinom's collaborative model

Yellow peas, along with a variety of Equinoms ‘smarter seeds’ and trait-rich grains, are utilized by various global food and ingredient companies including Dipasa, Pepsico-owned Sabra, and Roquette among others.

Equinom noted that Meatless Farm is ‘the first plant-based meat company’ to work with it. “This partnership will put Meatless Farm and Lovingly Made Ingredients at the forefront of innovation in the global plant-based protein market,”​ the company contended.

“Partnering with Meatless Farm and Lovingly Made Ingredients validates Equinom's improved pea protein concentrate as a valuable ingredient in plant-based nutrition and solidifies our position in the industry,”​ said Gil Shalev, Founder and CEO of seed specialist Equinom. “We are proud to collaborate with a company with the same vision ⎯⎯ that the world’s source of protein must come from a clean, sustainable and accessible ingredient made only by nature.”

Later this year, Equinom will release its first limited edition pea concentrate to selected ‘leading food manufacturers’, the company noted.

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