By Johann Tergesen
With an expected additional 2 billion people on earth by the year 2050 and consumers already demanding more plant-based foods, now is the perfect time to bring to market nutritious and great-tasting canola protein ingredients. Burcon NutraScience, a global technology leader in the development of plant-based proteins, has been perfecting its food-grade, non-GMO canola proteins for the last 20 years. This December, they will become a reality.
In May 2019, Burcon and three veteran food industry executives established a joint venture called Merit Functional Foods to build and operate a state-of-the-art protein production facility in Manitoba, Canada. Merit Foods is building a 94,000 square foot facility to produce, under licence, Burcon’s novel pea, non-GMO canola and proprietary protein blends. It is scheduled to be completed in December and will be the only commercial facility in the world with the ability to produce food-grade canola proteins.
Burcon’s patented canola protein extraction process removes the inherent off-flavors and anti-nutritional factors of canola to produce pure, clean-tasting protein ingredients. Food and beverage formulators will be able to effectively create applications using Burcon’s/Merit Food’s canola proteins without any bitter off-tastes or undesirable aromas or colors. Moreover, Merit Foods will market a unique line of proprietary blends of canola and pea proteins that offer complete plant-based nutrition. The two proteins are complementary in that canola and pea are each rich in essential amino acids that the other lacks. The resulting blends, marketed as MeritPro™, feature exceptional functional characteristics, low allergenicity and a nutritional value that meets or exceeds that of dairy or beef. Burcon’s food-grade canola and pea proteins and protein blends are suitable as dairy alternatives in beverages, yogurts and cheese as well as meat substitutes in vegan and vegetarian meals, to name a few applications.
Earlier this year, Burcon and Merit entered into a collaboration agreement with Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, to tailor Burcon’s pea and canola protein ingredients for use by Nestlé in a range of plant-based meat and dairy products. The proteins will be produced by Merit Foods in its state-of-the-art facility.
The plant-based food trend has never been stronger and it’s here to stay. Food and beverage companies are increasingly seeking out nutritious, functional and great-tasting plant-based protein ingredients; Burcon’s pea and canola proteins check all the boxes. Today, our experts collaborate closely with customers, applying their vast knowledge in the use of these proteins in food and beverage applications in ways that accelerate product development and reduce time to market.
What does all of this mean for canola farmers? In short, it will open up additional markets beyond oil and feed. Canola, as the second-largest oilseed crop in the world, is an excellent source of protein for human nutrition. Its nutritional profile and functionality exceed that of many plant-based proteins. Canola meal has usually been fed to livestock following oil extraction, but now canola protein can be extracted from that meal and further purified into valuable plant protein ingredients with an array of uses for human consumption.
What’s next for Burcon and canola? Right now, working with major customers like Nestlé to develop the market for a novel canola protein ingredient. Longer term, this may require additional production facilities to meet the increasing demand for nutritious, plant-based protein ingredients. Getting to market has been our goal since day one, and second is to supply and grow the market for canola protein. There is ample supply of canola — we just need to bring its protein for human use to the world.
Johann Tergesen is CEO of Burcon NutraScience based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.