IFT First: Benson Hill targets plant-based meat sector with ultra-high protein soy ingredients

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Benson Hill
Photo Credit: Benson Hill

Related tags Benson Hill soy protein concentrate plant protein

Benson Hill is seeing surging demand for its non-GMO ultra-high protein soy flour, which is now in full-scale commercialization mode thanks to a new industrial facility and partnerships with major food manufacturers including Kellogg.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at IFT FIRST 2022 in Chicago this week, Benson Hill VP of sales Kip Underwood said that bringing its new processing facility located in Creston, Iowa, online is the last piece of the puzzle before ramping up to broad-scale commercial production supported by 70,000 contracted acres of soybeans planted and harvested in 2021. 

The new facility - purchased earlier this year from ZFS Creston, LLC for $102m - will process and produce the company's branded line of ultra-high protein soy flour, TruVail, which contains post-crush protein levels of 60%- 65% (20% higher than a typical de-fatted soy flour, according to the company) while using 70% less water and 50% fewer CO2 emissions compared to production of conventional soy protein making it a more sustainable option for food and beverage manufacturers.

"The last couple of years have been about building the business infrastructure to bring TruVail to market. The Creston facility now gives us the manufacturing capability to process ultra-high protein soybeans,"​ Underwood told FoodNavigator-USA, noting that full-scale processing at the new facility will begin in January 2023. 

But even without an industrial facility, Benson Hill has made headway at its smaller existing operations in Indiana. According to its latest Q1 2022 earnings report, the company reported revenues of $92m in its Q1 2022, a nearly 200% increase year-over-year, led by growth in its ingredients segment with reported revenues of $66m, a year-over-year increase of nearly 400%. 

Sustainability at its core

Benson Hill touts its simplified production process, which bypasses the water- and energy-intensive protein concentration step (because of the naturally-high protein content of the raw material) as the foundation of its sustainable operations, which is a significant piece of the Benson Hill's value proposition, noted Underwood, who said that aside from nutrition and taste, consumers are increasingly interested in the impact their food and beverage purchases have on the environment.

While not at the top of the list of concerns for most consumers purchasing plant-based products (health remains the #1 purchase driver), environmental concerns are slowly growing year to year, according to a global industry survey by Euromonitor.

Available in two forms, a regular soy flour and texturized soy flour, TruVail can be formulated to complement a number of applications from baked good and tortillas to soups and cereals, but the company is most excited about the possibilities in the plant-based meat sector where Benson Hill struck a deal with Kellogg to supply the soy protein for its Morningstar Farms and Incogmeato brands.

"Knowing MorningStar Farms is a key player in the plant-based food industry, we’re looking forward to working together to make a significant impact,” ​said Bruce Bennett, president of Benson Hill’s ingredient business in a press release.

In international markets, Benson Hill has also partnered with protein producer Denofa to supply its soy protein for the European aqua feed culture market.

Building supply for soy protein oil

The company is also seeing demand for its secondary product line, soybean oil, which is extracted during the processing of its soy flour.

In response to the ongoing volatility in Ukraine, which supplies much of the world's sunflower oil supply, and to address the urgency of some customers in need of a suitable alternative, Benson Hill planted 10,000 additional acres of soybean crops to produce more of its high-oleic soybean oil.

"Benson Hill is marketing a Non-GMO Project Verified high-oleic, low-linolenic soy oil, which we believe strongly is a great alternative to the sunflower oil that's going to see some really significant shortages in the latter part of this year and forward," ​noted CEO Matt Crisp on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call. 

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