Taly Nechushtan, who took the helm of InnovoPro in 2017, explained that in general consumers and manufacturers are looking for the same things in plant-based proteins: a clean taste, a pleasing appearance, nutritional value, sustainability and a clean label.
“The industry is also looking at functionality because in the food industry functional ingredients are very important to create the structure of the product. If you want to create an energy bar, you need it to have a form that will hold. If you want to create a dessert, it has to not be a liquid – it has to have a strong texture. If you want a mayonnaise, it has to have a texture that looks like mayonnaise,” Nechushtan said.
“We have developed a product that has all these combinations of proteins in a very good way,” she added.
She explained that InnovoPro has developed a patented technology that allows it to extract 70% protein concentrate from chickpeas, which can be used in a variety of applications as an emulsifier and foaming agent that can replace eggs, oil and gluten without compromising taste or texture.
In addition, the protein has a clean taste, which means manufacturers can create products with clean labels.
“If you are looking for example into pea proteins, which is another alternative, it has a very strong flavor. So, if you are using pea protein, which can be good in several applications, you have to put masking agents and E-number [ingredients] and chemicals to cover up that strong flavor of pea,” Nechushtan said.
“So, if people are looking for a short ingredient list without too many chemicals, without stabilizers or emulsifiers … chickpeas are a very good solution,” she said.
She also noted that unlike soy, which is another popular plant-based protein, chickpeas are not a common allergen and therefore do not need to be labeled as such.
“We say the chickpea protein is like magic because it performs like the original ingredient or classic product and it has the taste of the classic product, but without dairy, eggs, it is non-GMO, gluten-free and only 2-3% of chickpea protein in the formula can help you take out unwanted ingredients and by doing that you get a clean label product,” she said.
The ingredient also offers a compelling environmental story because, Nechushtan notes, it has a much, much lower impact to produce than animal protein.
For example, producing 1kg of chickpea protein compared to beef requires 163 times less arable land, 42 times less water and produces 74 times less carbon dioxide.
Similarly, the processing does not require any solvents and uses less water and energy, she noted.
InnovoPro is expanding quickly
After spending three years developing and testing the product, and raising sufficient funding to produce the ingredient at scale, InnovoPro is ready to launch several products using its protein this year.
“In Israel, we launched in 2018 a vegan athlete ready-to-drink mix with chickpea protein, which was the first product launched with the ingredient,” and later this year “we will launch a vegan spread” in the Czech Republic, Nechushtan said.
Later this year through 2021, she added, the company will launch other new products, including a chickpea starch and potentially a chickpea sugar and fiber, and secure additional patents for production, she said.
“The company is expanding and we are now thinking about our own factory that we intend to build with new investors,” while at the same time developing partnerships to develop other new products and expand distribution, she added.