Ingredion inks deal with Oscar-winning director James Cameron to accelerate plant-based protein growth

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The lean towards a plant-based lifestyle is touted as one of the leading trends for 2021. Pic: GettyImages/egal
The lean towards a plant-based lifestyle is touted as one of the leading trends for 2021. Pic: GettyImages/egal

Related tags Ingredion plant-based Meat alternatives plant protein pulse-based flours Pea protein James Cameron Verdient Foods

Ingredion Incorporated has taken another step in its mission to become a leading supplier of consumer-preferred plant-based proteins by acquiring the remaining stake of Verdient Foods Inc.

According to the global ingredients supplier, this deal pushes its investment in the plant-based sector – forecast to be one of the leading trends for 2021​ – to over $200m.

In December 2018, Ingredion established a joint venture with Saskatchewan-based Verdient – jointly owned and operated by the Titanic​ and Avatar ​director and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron – to produce pea-protein isolates and a range of pulse-based flours and concentrates.

At the time, Jim Zallie, Ingredion’s president and CEO, said the Illinois-headquartered company had identified plant-based proteins as a high-growth, high-value market opportunity that is ontrend with consumers’ desire to find sustainable alternatives to animal-based proteins.

Cameron added the two companies share the same plant-based vision and together could become leaders in the new wave of global food production. He also noted it was also a huge opportunity for Canadian farmers in the prairie provinces – the heart of the country’s pulse-crop production – to add value to their production.

Serve increasing consumer demand

The recent transaction – expected to close this month – is being funded from Ingredion’s available liquidity. No other financial details were disclosed.

“Acquiring 100% ownership in Verdient Foods enables Ingredion to accelerate net sales growth, further expand our manufacturing capability and co-create with our customers to serve the increasing consumer demand for plant-based foods,”​ said Zallie.

“Over the past two years, we have strategically invested over $200 million to build a leadership position in consumer-preferred plant-based proteins, which is central to Ingredion’s strategy and accelerating our Driving Growth Roadmap.

“We are well positioned to continue capitalising on and benefiting from the megatrends driving the changes in the global food and beverage industry.”

Trajectory growth in Asia-Pacific

Valdirene Licht, Ingredion’s senior VP and president, Asia-Pacific, said the plant-based trend has certainly taken hold in the region and is swiftly moving from niche to mainstream.

“Our recent proprietary consumer research indicates that one-third of the population in the region is already adopting a meat minimising diet. From this strategic investment in Verdient, our region will benefit from large-scale plant-based protein supply and continued innovation to accelerate our presence in the region,” ​said Licht.

Eric Weisser, Ingredion’s senior director, growth platforms and marketing, Asia-Pacific, added, “With more and more food and beverage segments now keen on plant-based alternatives, having a breadth of plant-based protein ingredients bolsters our formulation capabilities to resolve the challenges our customers face when replicating the functionality of the proteins.

“The inherent nutritional profile of pulse flours and concentrates is also well positioned to spur product innovations within the better-for-you space.”

A new adjacent facility is under construction at the former Ingredion/Verdient JV’s plant in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan. This will serve as Ingredion’s primary location for the manufacturing and distribution of a wide range of speciality pulse-based concentrates and pea, lentil and fava bean flours to the global market.

Pioneers in driving change

Zille said, “We look forward to building on the foundation set by James and Suzy Amis Cameron, who have been pioneers in driving transformational change in the food industry and creating a shared sustainable future for all.”

Cameron added, “Ingredion is truly committed to breakthrough, innovative and sustainable plant-based solutions, and to revolutionising food systems for the health of the planet.

“Our collective efforts and shared vision are about igniting change and delivering benefits to consumers around the world.”

Ingredion’s push into the plant-based protein space

The 100% acquisition of Verdient is the latest in a series of actions and investments the company has taken to expand and advance its plant-based proteins specialty growth platform.

Earlier this year, Ingredion invested in a Process Innovation Centre in New Jersey, US, enabling customers to develop and test formulations and ideas for plant-based meat alternatives.

It also signed an exclusive commercial agreement with Northern Quinoa Production Corporation to globally distribute and market quinoa flours.

In August, Ingredion appointed Beth A.C. Tormey as VP of plant-based proteins – followed by the appointment of Jeremy Xu as senior VP and chief innovation officer in October – to advance the specialty growth platforms.

Additional expansions included a 2019 investment in San Francisco-based biotech startup Clara Foods and the launch of a dedicated innovation lab in Englewood, Colorado, to accelerate product launches and improve existing recipes in the plant-based space.

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