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Plant Protein Boom Gets Beyond Meat Supplier Thinking Bigger

Agnieszka de Sousa and Ashley Robinson

(Bloomberg) -- One of the world’s biggest pea processors is considering expanding into fava beans as the boom in alternative proteins fuels demand for special crops.

France’s Roquette Freres SA is exploring processing the beans as consumers increasingly turn toward plant-based meats as well as substitute proteins in sports nutrition drinks and other beverages, said Jean-Philippe Azoulay, the company’s head of peas and new proteins.

While the pulse market is tiny compared with crops like wheat and soy, demand is on the rise amid interest in plant-based proteins brought about by Beyond Meat Inc. and Impossible Foods Inc. For decades, vegetarians and vegans have been the main market for such proteins, but that’s now changing as consumers seek to diversify diets and opt for more environmentally friendly options.

“We are already looking beyond peas,” Azoulay said in an interview at the Future Food-Tech London summit. “The fava bean seems to be the most promising today, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Roquette is also looking at expanding into processing lentils, mung beans, oats and rice, Azoulay said.

The closely held company extracts protein from peas, which is then used to make products such as vegan burgers, and has an agreement to supply Beyond Meat this year. To tap rising demand, it plans to more than double its pea-processing capacity from about 100,000 tons, and is building a plant in Canada’s Manitoba province. The factory is scheduled to start production late next year and will be fully operational by early 2021.

Roquette could use its current plants if it expands into fava beans, which are also known as faba or broad beans, because processing uses the same techniques and facilities as peas.

(Updates with plans for Manitoba plant in penultimate paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Agnieszka de Sousa in London at atroszkiewic@bloomberg.net;Ashley Robinson in Winnipeg (Non BLP Loc) at arobinson193@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at lthomasson@bloomberg.net, Nicholas Larkin, Liezel Hill

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