“We're looking for innovators in the food and beverage space and related industries that we work in that are really trying to impact the sustainability aspect of their ESG programs through the food products that they create,” Beall said. “We're creating plant protein that comes with its own very measurable and differentiated sustainability story.”
IFT FIRST: Benson Hill establishes itself in soy ingredient market
Launching commercially this year through a partnership with ADM, Benson Hill showcased its full portfolio of branded ingredients at its IFT FIRST booth, including its soy protein and oils, designed for food manufacturing and foodservice applications, Beall said. Benson Hill’s soy proteins are also available in meals, flakes, flours, grits, and textured crumbles, flakes, and chunks.
With its CropOS platform the blends data science and machine learning capabilities with the American farming network and Crop Accelerator program, Benson Hill creates proprietary high protein soybeans that come “out of the ground with 20% more protein," Beall said. Though Benson Hill is currently only offering soybean ingredients, the company plans to take the same approach and apply it to other food ingredients, she added.
On the sustainability front, Benson Hill is “specifically looking for a type of farmer that is practicing regenerative ag," Beall said. Additionally, Benson Hill farms can skip the concentration manufacturing step, given the higher protein content of its soybeans, she said.
Seed the Day
Benson Hill is supporting the ingredient with a new marketing campaign called Seed the Day, which implores food and beverage companies to create a more sustainable food supply through innovation and meeting consumer demands for plant-based products, she added.
“It's literally about seeds because that's what we do, but it's figuratively about doing something today and getting started and not waiting,” Beall said. “So, thinking about what are the seeds that you can plant to make for a better tomorrow for yourself, for the planet, [and] for other people.”
The plant-based market: A market of its own
While Benson Hill partnered with ADM last year to distribute its products with a focus on meat alternatives, parts of that segment face several challenges, including slumping sales that hing partly from a rush of new subpar products, Beall explained.
"You had so many newcomers to the market at once consumers had so many choices that it really shifted the market a bit. And also, you had entrants that weren't the best. And as we know in the food business, you can drive trial, but if the product doesn't taste great and isn't the right price, it's not going to do well."
Despite this, CPG food and beverage brands and consumers still seek plant-based claims in a range of products, Beall said. Increasingly, brands that have always been plant-based are now calling out that aspect of their products on the front of their package similar to how "people started to call out gluten-free on eggs," she said.
"It's plant-based eating; it's not just plant-based meat alternatives or alternatives to something. People are looking for plant-based as a category on its own, not an alternative to something else, and it's our responsibility to give consumers stuff that tastes good, and they can afford."