Four bowls of different colored beans and peas on a white background.

The Edmonton region’s plant protein industry – it’s an opportunity right now

Food and Agriculture
Published On
December 14, 2020

Plant-based protein is one of the single fastest-growing food and agri-food sub-sectors in the world. By 2030, the global demand for plant-based protein is anticipated to reach $100 billion. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region has all the ingredients needed to attract international investment into this growing industry.

The growth of this sector is being led by a global shift that is happening in the way people are consuming food. Western consumers are eating less meat due to environmental and health concerns, while consumers in emerging markets are looking to add more protein to their diets. The changes are also being driven by a growing consciousness around food security. COVID-19 has awakened many countries to the importance of internal food security, which includes both sustainable practices and shorter supply chains.

Protein rich products like peas, beans, lentils, and canola provide the solutions to these global problems – and we have access to more of these products than anywhere else in the world. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of pulse crops as well as canola.

Dan Brewin, CEO of the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta (PPAA) addressed the emerging opportunity for the plant protein industry in Alberta at their annual general meeting on November 4, 2020.

“If consumers worldwide are asking for this product — plant protein or plant protein ingredients — and we already grow the commodities, why wouldn’t we process it here?” asked Dan. “Let’s make sure we capture that value,” he continued.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is poised to dominate this skyrocketing global industry and some regional businesses are already capitalizing on the opportunity. PPAA is actively working on measures to attract new investment into the sector, improve access to capital and make start-up investment available.

One example of this is Eat Beyond Global, a Vancouver-based investment fund that specializes in the alternative food sector. Due to be listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in the next few weeks, Eat Beyond is the first fund of its kind in the country. It was created to provide investors with a chance to be part of the booming alternative food sector. Patrick Morris, CEO of the new fund participated in the PPAA AGM to share the organization’s mandate.

“We’re focused on a broad cross-section of companies addressing the growing need for sustainable and plant-based food options to benefit global health and food security,” Patrick told attendees at the AGM. “This is the premise on which Eat Beyond Global was formed — the future of food, investing in good companies to contribute to a more sustainable industry.”

Nabati Foods is a great example. They’ve developed a line of plant-based cheesecakes, cheese shreds, and meat alternatives have recently announced that they have gained a listing for their first chain of supermarkets in the United States. Nabati products are currently available across Canada in well over 300 stores, and will now be in the U.S. in over 100 stores. Nabati is working on a new facility that is seven-times larger than its current facility and plans to enter the European Market in 2022.

“Nabati has a very loyal customer base that has been growing rapidly. Sales grew by over 33% in Canada in just the past year, and this was without a putting focus on marketing or advertising. This has been almost completely organic growth,” said Patrick Morris, CEO of Eat Beyond. “By expanding production capacity, increasing marketing efforts, and partnering with reputable distributors that align with Nabati’s values, I expect to see this growth accelerate.”

There’s a lot of support for industry entrepreneurs in the Edmonton region wanting to get their products to market. The Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) and the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator (APBI) are housed under the same roof in a Leduc industrial area. These government facilities provide subsidized support to entrepreneurs wanting to try out new ideas by offering space, production equipment and expertise.

With specialized equipment and a team of scientists, engineers and technicians, these facilities are key players in the province’s food and beverage industry, helping small and medium-sized entrepreneurs with everything from research & development to navigating the logistics of getting their products to market.

The FPDC is home to Alberta’s first fractionation suite, which recently received funding to expand their capacity. The funding came from a combination of government grants and private investment from the crop industry, demonstrating that there is a broad understanding of the value that plant protein fractionation could bring to the region.

According to Dan, the sector’s long-term economic benefits will include increased agri-processing and job creation. “We feel we are a big part of the economic recovery,” he told attendees at the AGM. “The opportunity is now. It’s not going to wait forever.”

Learn more about the opportunities in plant protein food and beverage manufacturing and plant protein fractionation in the Edmonton Metropolitan region.