‘Pea has not yet delivered all its potential’: Roquette on its new €11m plant protein centre

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/fcafotodigital
Image: Getty/fcafotodigital

Related tags: Pea, Pea protein, alternative protein

Ingredients supplier Roquette has announced the opening of a new Plant Protein Center of Expertise in north-east France.

The R&D accelerator hopes to fuel the company’s strategy for a new plant-based gastronomy, Roquette Senior Vice President of Plant Proteins Jeremy Burks told FoodNavigator.

The 2,000 square meter facility at Roquette’s site in Vic-Sur-Aisne, around 100 kilometres northeast of Paris, will enlarge the field of possibilities in terms of food innovation, new protein development and new production technologies, the company revealed, and will enable the company to support its growth ambitions and make a greater contribution to the food revolution and the plant-based gastronomy.

The investment of €11 million in the new centre of expertise will build on Roquette’s 40 years’ experience in the research and production of plant protein and will reinforce the group’s position as a leader for food, nutrition and health markets, it said.

“With this R&D we will bring plant-based innovation up to a new level. We are uniquely positioned to respond to what customers need as we strive to be the best partner for food innovators,”​ said Burks.

The plant-based food and alternative proteins sector has seen an explosion in popularity, with growth looking set to continue. Flexitarian consumers are particularly looking to bring new variety to their diet and have new sensory experiences but without sacrificing the taste, said Burks.

“There are tastes and preferences that can be considered global, but it is key to understand local needs as well. This new asset as R&D accelerator offers enormous potential to test innovative ingredients, to further develop existing ones and to propose a new gastronomic experience to everyone across the globe.

"Expertise, innovation and technology advancement are key assets for growth and are indeed critical to anticipate food market preferences.”

New sources of protein

Besides extending its pea and wheat protein range, Roquette intends to introduce several new sources of protein every five years. The new R&D asset offers enormous potential to test innovative ingredients, it said, to further develop existing ones and to propose a tasty and nutritional plant-based cuisine for meat and dairy alternatives or specialized nutrition.

“Huge innovation in plant-based meat sector has led to the development of new plant protein sources such as chickpea, mungbean, hemp, canola, fungi, or microalgae,”​ noted Burks, who said finding alternatives sources are part of the answer to improving current finished products and achieving new formats of plant based food.

“Blending different protein sources is a common practice already used in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives also to get an improved taste, a better amino acid profile, complementary functionalities, and a diversity of raw materials.”

Future technological processes

The centre will be a major asset to design the future technological processes that will bring new plant protein properties, he continued. “We will develop new technologies and processes related to separation, extraction, purification, drying to enhance the unique properties of plant proteins and to meet today and tomorrow increasing demand for sensory diversity and nutritional improvement.”

Through variety in plant protein sources, Roquette said it will develop new opportunities in the meat substitute sector. For instance: taste and texture performance, improved nutritional profile and diversity in meat alternative type. “Some challenges of meat substitute sector are not solved today,”​ Burks told us. “So, solutions can come from new protein ingredients that will combine nutrition and complete protein with a texture enhancer.”

That said, Roquette, which opened the world’s largest pea protein factory in Canada last year and which counts plant-based meat producer Beyond Meat among its clients, stressed there’s still innovation possibilities offered by pea. It “has not yet delivered all its potential,”​ claimed Burks.  

New emerging alternative proteins also have challenges such as the need to scale up to get a competitive cost and availability, he said. That mean “as a non-soy alternative, pea protein is the top-choice ever.”

‘Huge opportunities to catch’

The centre will be a major asset to design future Roquette’s technological processes to further enhance plant-based food quality, he added.

“The plant protein market is a highly attractive sector, and its strong growth reflects the demand for a new plant-based gastronomy offering delicious tastes, taking care of consumers’ health and preserving the environment. These trends will continue and greatly accelerate creating huge opportunities that we can catch.”

The demand for plant proteins and plant-based foods is driven by health eating trends and sustainability with the switch to flexitarian or even vegetarian/vegan diet, he explained.

“There are tastes and preferences that can be considered global, but it is key to understand local needs as well. This new asset as R&D accelerator offers enormous potential to test innovative ingredients, to further develop existing ones and to propose a new gastronomic experience to everyone across the globe.”

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