Southern Manitoba continues to build toward becoming a centre for the plant-based protein market as another processing plant is announced for the area.
Burcon, already a developer of pulse and canola protein products, and some of the players behind Hemp Oil Canada’s establishment as a dominant industry player are moving forward with the $65 million plant they announced in May.
The joint venture will be called Merit Foods and its canola and pea protein plant will be built in the Winnipeg area. From mid-2020 the company expects to process about 20,000 tonnes per year of yellow peas.
The products the “flex production plant” can manufacture include its proprietary Peazazz and Peazac pea proteins and its Supertein, Puratein and Nutratein canola protein products.
The joint venture brings together players well known in Manitoba. Hemp Oil Canada has been a standout success in the hemp industry, developing commercially successful products and proving that hemp was not just a pipe dream of ex-hippies but a legitimate agricultural commodity.
Burcon has long been active in the crop fractionation business and while based in Vancouver, its chief executive officer, Johann Tergesen, is a product of a well-known Manitoba family. Burcon already operates in the Winnipeg area.
Merit has already found a site and has hired an engineering firm to design and oversee construction, as well as ordering the manufacturing equipment it will need.
As the plant is being built, Burcon will market its plant protein products to potential users.
The Merit plant will be much smaller than the $400 million Roquette plant, and Tergesen acknowledged that the company already feels it might be too small, but it will be built so that capacity can be increased when desired.
Plant-based proteins have become madly popular with many consumers and the grocery stores and restaurant chains that serve them. In Canada, the most visible success has been the Beyond Meat burgers promoted by the A & W fast-food chain, but after A & W’s runaway success with the non-meat burgers, other companies such as Tim Hortons have jumped into the game, with various forms of non-meat but meat-seeming products.
Most large grocery store chains also promote non-meat, plant-based protein products, often including them in the meat counter as easy substitutes.