Nestlé and Merit Functional Foods enter joint development agreement to scale pea and canola proteins supply

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

 ©GettyImages / Jarek Fethke
©GettyImages / Jarek Fethke

Related tags Merit Functional Foods Pea protein plant-based protein Nestlé

Under a new joint development agreement, Nestlé will help Merit Functional Foods and its technology partner, Burcon NutraScience, scale and commercialize its portfolio of plant proteins with the goal of using the startup's novel ingredients in foods and beverages produced by the world's largest food company.

"Developing nutritious and great-tasting plant-based meat and dairy alternatives requires access to tasty, nutritious, and sustainable raw materials as well as proprietary manufacturing technology," ​said Stefan Palzer, Nestlé chief technology officer, all three of which Merit posesses, according to its co-CEO Ryan Bracken.

Founded in 2019, Merit Functional Foods​ was started by three executives from Manitoba Harvest and Hemp Oil Canada who partnered with Burcon NutraScience years ago to leverage its proprietary extraction technology to develop a portfolio of better-tasting, better-performing plant proteins derived from pea and canola. According to Merit's CEO Ryan Bracken, the company's pea and canola proteins have an over 90% purity level, achieved by using Burcon's proprietary extraction technology. 

The company's pea protein ingredients include Peazazz, Peazac, Puratein HS (canola protein), and a canola/pea protein blend called MeritPro HS. 

"From a purity perspective, anyone buying our pea or canola protein will be looking at a 10% increase in purity of the protein. Effectively, what that means if you’re looking to fortify with 10 g of protein or 20 g of protein, you can use a lot less raw materials from us, which is great thing for formulators,"​​ Bracken previously told FoodNavigator-USA​.

“Partnering with Nestlé – a global leader in food and nutrition – is a great milestone for Merit Functional Foods,”​ Merit Co-CEO Ryan Bracken said. “Merit has already demonstrated the impact of our novel proteins in plant-based foods. This new partnership helps build on this, and it’s a major step in developing the next generation of nutritious and delicious plant-based products that draw on the benefits of our novel proteins.”

Globally, Nestlé has around 300 R&D scientists, engineers, and product developers located in eight R&D centers that are dedicated to the research and development of plant-based products. 

Merit is currently building its commercial-scale 88,000-square-foot production facility in Winnipeg, Canada, which is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2020 and will enable Merit to scale its initial production throughput by up to five times the initial capacity, said Bracken. 

Nestlé’s plant-based plans

Nestlé’s plant-based product range includes pea, soy- and wheat-based burger patties, sausages, mince meat, chicken filets, and various prepared dishes.

The company has also developed pea and oat-based dairy alternatives, almond-, coconut- and oat-based creamers, plant-based coffee mixes as well as a range of non-dairy ice creams. It also recently announced​ its plans to launch vegan alternatives to cheese and bacon, designed to complement its existing plant-based burger patties.

"The partnership with Burcon and Merit will give us access to unique expertise and a new range of high-quality ingredients for plant-based food and beverages," ​Palzar said. 

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