A consortium is expanding manufacturing capacity at the Verdient Foods plant in Vanscoy, Sask., to commercialize new pulse ingredient technology.
Protein Industries Canada is funding half of the $25.7-million project, while Ingredion Inc., Ingredion Plant Based Protein Specialties Canada, Verdient, T Base 4 Investments and O.M.D. Food Products are funding the other half.
The partnership intends to improve the functionality of pulse ingredients, starting with yellow peas.
Novel technologies developed at Ingredion will be implemented at industrial scale and ultimately commercialized, said Blair Knippel, former general manager of Verdient and an adviser to the new project.
The goal is to create sufficient volumes to supply global food and beverage manufacturers.
PIC chief executive officer Bill Greuel said this investment from the supercluster will open new markets and strengthen the economy at home.
“We know that increasing our value-added processing in Canada by an additional 20 percent of our crop production can add $12 billion to Canada’s economy annually,” he said.
The Verdient plant will buy about 100,000 tonnes of product each year, with a portion of that going into this new venture.
Beth Tormey, Ingredion vice-president in charge of plant-based protein, said the company has invested more than US$200 million to expand its plant protein portfolio in the last two years.
“We firmly believe that Canada plays an important role in plant-based protein, solidifying Saskatchewan as the innovation epicentre for the plant-protein sector and creating further growth opportunities for the region,” she said.
Knippel said the announcement validates Verdient’s original business plan. The plant, co-founded by film director James Cameron and Susie Amis Cameron, already produces ingredients.
“The Verdient team will naturally pre-process substantially all the feedstocks that will be consumed by the project and will provide feedstock to Ingredion after the completion of the project,” Knippel said. “Its core pulse ingredients will ultimately have a broader place on store shelves.”
Greuel said Saskatchewan farmers will benefit from being able to sell more product closer to home. That helps mitigate trade disruption and transportation issues, he said.
Knippel said more opportunities will come in the future once the core business is established.
The plant under construction is expected to open in mid-2021.
“The plant was actually designed to double in capacity as soon as manufacturer demand begins to grow so it’s very scalable as well,” Knippel said.
Tormey said the most critical work to be done relates to taste and texture. Different pulses have different taste profiles, which make them more suitable for some applications than others.
“We’re constantly looking to modulate the taste and with that, quite frankly and very tightly connected with that, is the texture. They tend to go together,” she said.
Everything produced at Verdient is human food grade and is generally custom manufacturing for customers, Knippel said. Product is sourced according to those requirements.
He also said that using the starch fraction of pulses, not just the protein, will be a focus.
In 2018, Ingredion bought part of Verdient from the Camerons and earlier this month signed an agreement to acquire the remaining ownership share.