Health and cost concerns driving alternative protein demand

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pea protein Nutrition

Cosucra plans to take advantage of the rapidly growing alternative
protein market by show how pea protein can tie into current health
concerns and cut costs.

The Belgian company said that it would use the forthcoming Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) exhibition in Paris this month to demonstrate how food makers can use pea protein to improve various product formulations.

"There is increasing demand for alternative protein sources,"​ said Kristof Werbrouck, Cosucra marketing manager. "And pea protein is non-genetically modified, gluten-free and has no labelling issues."

As a result, alternative sources of protein have already had a profound influence on the formulation of weight conscious food and diets based on low glycaemic index (GI) and high protein intake.

But Werbrouck believes that traditional manufacturers are beginning to take a look at new protein sources as a means of enriching their products.

"The demand for alternative sources is influencing common food,"​ he told​. "There is a definite shift away from dietic foods towards the mainstream."

In Paris, Werbrouck wants to get across the idea that pea protein can complement existing protein sources, helping traditional food makers to give their products new properties and also cut costs.

Caseinates, which are typically used in dietetic foods like infant formula, sports products and slimming foods, currently cost around €6.50 per kg while soy protein isolates cost €3.50 to €5kg for the same amount of protein. Werbrouck says that pea protein can cost around half the price of caseinates.

"We're now focusing on our range,"​ said Werbrouck. "We have the capacity, and now we need to show food makers that we can control the process."

The market for alternative proteins is becoming a little bit more competitive, though it remains very much a niche sector. Over 90 per cent of protein is sourced from soy and milk-derived caseinates, and this looks unlikely to change in the near future.

As Werbrouck points out, the pea protein sector could triple in size, and still not have any significant impact on the proteins market as a whole.

But other companies are emerging onto the market: Parrheim, a Canadian manufacturer is increasing its share of the North American pea protein market while European competitors have also emerged. For its part, Cosucra says that it aims to establish itself as the number one supplier in its sector.

Cosucra has been selling pea protein since the early 1990s. Operations were initially run from a pilot factory until public concern over genetically modified crops opened up the market to explicitly GM-free proteins.

"There was an over demand for GM-free protein, so we increased our capacity,"​ said Werbrouck.

Another key impetus behind the growth of the pea protein market was concern over gluten allergies. Such was the demand for alternative sources of protein that in 2001, Cosucra decided to triple its capacity.

And last year, a new spray-drying tower was completed at the company's headquarters in Belgium. The strategy now however is to move away from simply increasing capacity to diversifying the company's range of products.

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