Beyond Meat, a vegan food company, is preparing for an initial public offering. The company is one of many that is selling a new breed of vegetable-based products designed to mimic the taste and texture of real meat.
The company has tapped into strong demand. Since launching the Beyond Burger in 2016, they’ve managed to sell 25 million of the plant-based concoction. The product is so popular, A&W ran out of supply within a month of launching Beyond Burger in Canada.
While flexitarian millennial consumers underpin demand for the Beyond Burger, more significant market drivers for plant protein include increased population and affluence in the developing world. The continued rise of China, India and Africa is resulting in increased demand for both plant and animal protein.
This is why Protein Industries Canada, an industry consortium, was recently awarded $150 million in federal funding under the Innovation Superclusters Program. The consortium exists to push Western Canadian plant protein into the global market.
In the short term, the consortium will focus on research and development activities required to improve seed protein quality and yield. In the medium- to long-term they will focus on process technology innovation required to position Canada as a leading global supplier of ingredients and finished products.
Specific business opportunities with measurable demand are numerous. Food scientists are working on plant-based foods and ingredients. Geneticists and agricultural technologists are developing new plant traits, harvesting techniques and processing methods specific to the industry. Others are racing to formulate better animal feed for domestic and global markets.
The Canada West Foundation, a think tank, argues that the prairie provinces have the capacity to dominate the plant ingredient market and the combined resources to do so. They note that the prairie provinces already export vast quantities of raw agricultural products, so it makes sense to continue doing what we’re good at.
The age-old challenge for Western Canada is to capture more value by processing raw commodities into finished ingredients and food products. Through Protein Industries Canada, industry, government and academia are working together to increase global market share in protein fractions, ingredients, food and feed products, and technologies.
Given the momentum that is building around Western Canada’s plant protein industry, it stands to reason that Medicine Hat and region have an important role to play. Our region is home to a vast expanse of productive farm and pasture land, skilled labour, and strong logistics infrastructure. The good news is that we have everything we need to participate in building Western Canada’s plant protein industry.
This article was published in the Medicine Hat News on Oct. 24, 2018.