Pea protein potential: Cosucra advances on NPD amid evolving consumer demands

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20 Aug 2018 --- Cosucra, founded in 1852, has undergone a profound transformation over the last 30 years to become a pioneer in the production of healthy ingredients derived from chicory root and yellow pea. The company’s most recent investments in its pea factory in Belgium, which doubled pea protein isolate, fiber and starch capacity, have been completed in 2018 and increased to €35 million (US$40.4 million) in a bid to further support increasing consumer demand in the US market and suit the needs of the industry.

North America is the largest market for plant protein, according to the company, given the strong demand for plant-based nutrition and there will continue to be further investments made in the pea protein space in the coming years. 

Cosucra specializes in the processing into food ingredients of products that are sourced from regional and sustainable agriculture. The ingredients that the company produces meet the needs of food manufacturers for solutions that are made from nature, functional and in line with changing consumer habits, according to the company.

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Frank Truong (pictured, above), General Manager for Cosucra Inc. responsible for USA, Canada & Mexico operations and based in Chicago, Illinois, says: “Plant protein has seen a dramatic growth demand. As this trend is ongoing, we expect that pea protein will be a part of this growth. We estimate that alternative protein sources will cover 25 percent of global protein demand by 2050.”

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Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
and Innova Market Insights

This has been led by the changing demand of today’s consumer. “Consumers are looking for more environmentally-friendly protein sources and that is what plant proteins can provide. The carbon footprint of plant protein is much smaller than that of any animal protein,” he notes. “Specifically for peas, they don’t require any additional nitrogen, which is very important. At Cosucra, we aim to reduce energy consumption as much as possible, to optimize our food processing and consumers are paying much more attention to this when it comes to the future of our planet.”  

According to Truong, for every 1kg of beef, 588,000 liters of water is required. However, to produce 1kg of pea protein, only 3,200 liters of water is needed. “Soy has been the primary plant protein in the past, and even soy requires more water (5,900 liters to produce 1kg of soy protein) than pea protein,” he notes. 

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the impact that decreasing meat consumption will have. “We are collaborating with customers who want to give consumers more environmentally friendly and healthier nutrition choices. Plant-based protein can complement traditional meat products as part of their NPD strategy.”  Cosucra’s Pisane pea protein isolate, Swelite functional pea fiber and Nastar functional pea starch solutions, are well suited to meet customers’ NPD requirements. 

Also speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Eric Bosly, Global Commercial Director for Cosucra notes that growth in the US is evolving ahead of any other region: “Growth is global but we have a market that is certainly ahead from other regions and this is North America. Not only is the US ahead of other regions but it’s also growing at a rapid rate, so much so that within four years the North American market could represent 41 percent of the entire plant protein market based on market research.”

“In Europe, we see the same evolution of the product launches in four years, from 2013 to 2017, today the pea protein accounts for 17 percent of the global plant protein products launches. This is supported by customer awareness that we have seen an increase in the past five to ten years.”

“We are also developing in Asia, where we see a big demand for this ingredient and where we are adapting our recipes to the local taste of the countries and consumers,” says Bosly. 

“There is increased competition entering the pea protein market. At Cosucra, we have 28 years of experience in sourcing and processing pea proteins. Our knowledge and technical expertise allow us to offer sustainable and high-quality pea protein solution to all of our customers globally,” he notes. 

Over 75 percent of Cosucra’s yellow pea raw materials are transported on barges along the Scheldt river from Northern France to the company’s Belgium plant and according to Bosly, in order to produce these pea protein isolates, fiber and starch solutions “we are always looking to reduce our carbon footprint.”

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Eric Bosly, Global Commercial Director for Cosucra,
speaking at the company's Inauguration Day  

Regarding farm to fork traceability, Bosly maintains that Cosucra has a good relationship with their farmers, so that they can be assured of the journey that every pea protein isolate takes. “Our ingredients are also USDA NOP organic certified and non-GMO project verified for the North American market. Farm to Fork Traceability, especially in the US, is critical these days and important to our business,” Bosly adds. 

Moving forward, further expansion for Cosucra could be on the horizon. “We have just doubled our capacity and we also have the infrastructurein place to be able to expand in two further phases – so we don’t have to build another plant to have more expansion capacity and more importantly, we can address and revisit consumer demand in the future,” Bosly explains. 

“Some companies have communicated their plant expansions, but substantial capacity is at least a couple of years away from completion,” adds Truong. 

Another critical point for Cosucra is to be closer to the customer. “We develop and provide solution concepts that can help our customers grow their own brands and look at new category opportunities,” he states. “An important pillar of our growth strategy in North America is to tailor these taste to the specific country and consumer and develop the categories that we aim to focus on.” 

“There are many different solutions regarding pea protein prototypes,” says Truong. “We often think of the sports nutrition category, which was an early adopter of pea protein isolates. In the past three years in the US, we have seen many new product launches containing pea protein in diverse categories beyond sports nutrition and we see great potential across health & nutrition, food and beverage markets.” 

Looking ahead, Truong believes there will be opportunities for plant-based meat alternative products that offer more sustainable choices for the consumer. 

“We have to consider the changing needs of the market and offer the right solutions to conscious consumers. There is a new wave of protein companies who are looking to offer plant-based meat alternatives, as well as traditional meat products, so the level of rapid innovation will continue to increase. These companies have a large global footprint and place high priority on corporate social sustainability. They are addressing the changes in consumer buying habits with environmentally-friendly and healthier nutrition choices,” he concludes.

By Elizabeth Green

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