‘Huge consumer appeal…’ Chickpea protein in the spotlight as Ingredion invests in InnovoPro

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

While milled chickpea powders and flours have been on the market for years, only a handful of companies have developed techniques to produce functional protein concentrates and isolates...Image credit: istock-Zakharova_Natalia
While milled chickpea powders and flours have been on the market for years, only a handful of companies have developed techniques to produce functional protein concentrates and isolates...Image credit: istock-Zakharova_Natalia

Related tags: Ingredion, InnovoPro, chickpea protein, plant-based protein

Ingredion has made an equity investment (of an undisclosed sum) in Israeli firm InnovoPro, which has developed a suite of highly functional chickpea ingredients including protein concentrates, textured vegetable proteins, and most recently, egg replacements.

Ingredion – which is steadily expanding its presence in the plant-based protein arena, opening a large pea processing facility in Nebraska last year,​ and producing pulse-based concentrates and flours from peas, lentils and faba beans in Saskatchewan at Verdient Foods​ – said chickpeas had significant potential in the burgeoning plant protein market.

“We believe this investment will unlock huge consumer appeal for chickpea protein concentrates,"​ said Michael Natale, global leader of Ingredion’s plant-based protein platforms.

"InnovoPro has a strong portfolio of chickpea solutions and we are excited about the potential for the new applications that this will enable for our customers by capitalizing on the trends shaping the food industry​."  

InnovoPro – which was founded in 2013 and opened a US subsidiary in late 2020 – launched with 70% chickpea protein concentrates and has since developed a textured vegetable protein (TVP) combining chickpea and pea protein ​for the meat alternatives market, and an egg white alternative​.

And there’s more to come, said CEO Taly Nechushtan: “We intend to significantly increase our growth trajectory as we are transforming to a platform of chickpea ingredients.”

She did not go into details of the collaboration with Ingredion, but described the relationship as a partnership in an email to FoodNavigator-USA this morning: "We have great hopes to find mutual ways to collaborate and the first step was taken in form of the investment. We look forward to future discussions with Ingredion."

Natale added that Ingredion would "provide funding and advice on scaling their business."

Chickpeas in context

While milled chickpea powders and flours have been on the market for some time, only a handful of companies have developed techniques to produce functional protein concentrates and isolates – including InnovoPro​​ ​​and fellow Israeli firm ChickP​​​ and Virginia, US-based Nutriati​​ ​​- ​​which have developed techniques to remove key anti-nutritionals and preserve the qualities of the protein that make it attractive to formulators. (Read about Nutriati's 5-year deal with Tate & Lyle HERE​.)

From a functional perspective, InnovoPro’s 70% chickpea protein concentrate is a “strong emulsifier that combines water and oil together, which is what all R&D managers are looking for; but they are also looking for a very soluble protein, especially for beverages​​,” said Nechushtan in a recent interview with FoodNavigator-USA.

She noted for example that it performs well in low pH beverages, in which plant-based proteins such as pea can sometimes precipitate out of solution, or are not able to solubilize. “Plant protein in general are very sensitive to pH and you can get flakes of the product floating around in coffee for example, but we can prevent this.”​​

Protein digestibility and nutrition​

While chickpeas are not a source of complete protein like soy, egg, or casein, InnovoPro’s protein is a high-quality concentrated protein source with a PDCAAS of 0.8 – at the top end of the scale for plant-proteins, said Nechushtan, who took the helm at InnovoPro in 2016.

As for the other 30% of the protein concentrate that isn’t protein, she said, “Food companies are also looking for healthy fibers, so it’s highly nutritious, and low in carbs and sodium.”​​

Neutral taste, creamy texture, clean label​

From a sensory perspective, InnovoPro’s chickpea protein​​ concentrate is neutral-tasting with a smooth creamy mouthfeel (no ‘beany’ or ‘earthy’ taste or grittiness), which makes it particularly attractive for manufacturers of products such as plant-based milks, said Nechushtan.

You can also incorporate a meaningful amount of it in applications such as plant-based milks before taste becomes an issue, she said. “You can get to at least 3% of protein in a product which is similar to ​​[dairy] milk ​​[which contains around 3.3% protein​​​] without a beany taste​.”

More generally, she said, chickpea protein – which is non-GMO and non-allergenic - has broad consumer appeal. Put another way, you don’t need to educate consumers about chickpeas, which are widely used in traditional foods from hummus to tahini.

Interested in plant-based protein?

Positive Nutrition FNU logo

Checkout FoodNavigator-USA's FREE Positive Nutrition virtual series​, which features a webinar dedicated to plant-based protein:

Thursday March 24​ ​​(9am PT/12pm ET)​​: Plant-based protein in focus: From Pongamia to chickpeas​ -​​ featuring Terviva, Nepra Foods, Mattson, Synthesis Capital, EverGrain, Givaudan and Roquette​

Find out more and REGISTER HERE​.  

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