Protein Industries Canada and partner companies invest $7.6M in pork and beef alternatives

Mark Lowey
November 9, 2021

The Protein Industries Canada supercluster and four partner companies are investing in a $7.6-million project to develop high-quality alternatives to meat.

Wamame Foods, Merit Functional Foods, Wismettac Asian Foods and Winecrush Technology are partnering with the supercluster to develop and distribute plant-based, non-soy alternatives to pork and Wagyu beef. The University of British Columbia is an academic research partner on the project.

Bill Greuel, the CEO of Protein Industries Canada, said the plant-based foods and ingredients sector represents a “once-in-a-generation economic opportunity” for Canada. “We believe that by 2035, it can be a $25-billion sector for the country, and that we can supply ingredients for 10 per cent of the world’s plant-based foods," he said during an online launch event on Monday.

The new lines of meat alternatives will be sold throughout Europe, Asia and North America, expanding Canada’s plant-based meat alternative market footprint. A total of $7.6 million is being invested in the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing $3.8 million.

Partner companies say meat alternatives will rival the world’s best beef

The project partners said their beef alternatives will match the Wagyu line of beef in both texture and taste. Wagyu, made from Japanese cow breeds, is prized for its marbled texture, tenderness and taste.

Winnipeg-based Merit Functional Foods and Winecrush Technology, based in Summerland, B.C., will develop the ingredients for the new meat-alternative products using crops grown in Canada, including non-GMO peas and canola. They said the ingredients will then be used in research and development activities to perfect the new premium beef and pork alternatives.

Winecrush Technology is working with researchers in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems to improve the company’s process for converting winemaking derivatives into nutritious flavour enhancers for food. The research focuses on polyphenols, chemical compounds abundant in plants and used in winemaking.

Winecrush’s process uses these compounds to create food ingredients that provide the taste and texture of conventional meat, but without the high salt content and non-nutritional ingredients (such as methylcellulose used as a thickener) that are often present in plant-based alternatives, according to Kirk Moir, the CEO of Winecrush Technology.

The meat-alternative products will be sold under the Wagyu brand of Wamame Foods, a food technology firm and subsidiary of Vancouver-based Top Tier Foods.

Blair Bullus, president of Wamame Foods, said during the launch event that the project will build a plant-based alternative that "rivals the world’s most revered beef, Wagyu." He added that conventional meat production emits up to 90 percent more GHG emissions and uses 99 percent more water than plant-based products.

Products will be available early next year

The project is funded until March 2023, but the new products will be available starting in early 2022, with additional products rolled out through to early 2023, Bullus said. The premium products are expected to sell at a 20- to 30-per-cent higher cost than competing plant-based meat-alternatives, he said.

Merit Functional Foods has built a new 94,000-square foot production facility in Winnipeg, where it produces non-GMO pea and canola protein ingredients for use in plant-based foods and beverages.

Merit was the first company to market food-grade, non-genetically modified canola protein, according to Jeff Casper, the company’s director of research and applications. He said the company provides industry with plant proteins from Canadian-sourced peas and canola that improve taste and texture in plant-based food products, including meat alternatives.

To reach global markets, the new products also will be sold by Wismettac Asian Foods. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Wismettac distributes Asian food products to food service operators and grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada.


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