ADM has been in the alternative protein headlines almost constantly this year, announcing: $300 million investment to expand its alternative protein production facilities in Ilinois in April; a partnership with Eat Just in May to accelerate its cultivated line GOOD Meat; a new firm called ScaleUp Bio in Singapore earlier this month; and most recently, a strategic partnership with Benson Hill to scale ultra-high soy protein.
Juan Manuel Benítez-García, President, Global Savoury at ADM, spoke with vegconomist about such partnerships and how the company fits into the plant-based space.
In which areas does ADM offer alternatives?
We have a long legacy in plant-based protein solutions development, and we support brands across the food and beverage industry seeking to expand their alternative and plant-forward options, including meat alternatives – such as beef, chicken, pork, and fish alternatives – ready meals, specialized nutrition, dairy alternatives and more.
With over 75 years of plant protein experience, we continue to advance our knowledge and offerings in this space with the latest technology, ingredients, and solutions. Our historical expertise with textured vegetable protein (TVP®) for meat extensions and alternatives, has helped us broaden our portfolio of plant protein ingredients and solutions based on soy and wheat proteins. This is complemented by our advanced extrusion capabilities to meet specific texture, structure, and functional, and clean label needs; plus, our culinary solutions, such as savory flavors, food bases, broths, and stocks, enable authentic flavours and textures for alternative meat products.
Our dairy alternative portfolio includes quality solutions for plant-based yogurts, frozen desserts, milk, creamers, and cheese alternatives that are just as creamy and rich as their traditional counterparts. Furthermore, our plant-based proteins, such as soy and wheat, and our trend-forward wholesome ingredients, such as ancient grains, nuts, beans, pulses, and seeds, can help give an added boost of protein and fibre in baked goods, while maintaining an ideal taste and texture. Our selection of plant protein ingredients can also help create delectable, clean-tasting vegan baked goods by replacing traditional dairy products. Our plant-protein solutions and customized blends can also be used in specialized nutrition applications and incorporated into high-protein drinks.
What alternative protein partnerships are helping ADM meet customer needs in this space?
Our partnerships and strategic investments in innovative start-ups are a key components for advancement in this space. Most notably, our SojaProtein acquisition enables us to grow our local footprint and expand our world-class textured protein capabilities in Europe and around the world. By incorporating SojaProtein’s expertise and capabilities, we’re able to enhance our global non-GMO and sustainably sourced ingredient capacity while guaranteeing speed-to-market, as well as addressing an increasing consumer interest for plant-based foods in their everyday diets.
This acquisition also provides us with important access to a well-established customer base in southern Europe and expands our global capabilities to meet regional needs for European sourced, non-GMO, and sustainably sourced soy-elevated plant-based products, all while offering the full power and promise of ADM’s technical know-how, R&D expertise, and protein design capabilities.
Additionally, we’ve invested in New Culture for precision fermentation to make an animal-free casein protein, and through PlantPlus – our joint venture with Marfrig – we’re opening doors to new alternative meat innovations. Our investments in Nature’s Fynd, Perfect Day, and Air Protein are providing us access to developing protein technologies based on fermentation techniques to develop alternative proteins.
Most recently, our partnership with Eat Just on the GOOD Meat cultivated chicken brand was announced. With each of these strategic partnerships, we’re looking forward to supporting the future of the alternative protein and plant-based space.
What can ADM offer in terms of plant proteins to potential partners?
We continue to advance our knowledge and offerings in this space with the latest technology, processing, and ingredients. When creating plant-based offerings across food and beverage categories, we take a comprehensive approach that helps brands pinpoint the right plant protein ingredient or system needed for their formulation parameters.
We’re able to meet these expectations by providing integrated plant-based solutions that expand formulation possibilities powered by the size and scope of our protein and wholesome ingredient portfolio with over 30 diverse sources across soy, wheat, beans, pulses, nuts, and ancient grains, and more.
What are ADM’s latest developments for the plant-based market?
Our latest developments are new solutions that enhance plant-based offerings under the NutriFlex™ umbrella. To meet specific brands’ needs, NutriFlex™ includes three levels of protein-forward systems, which are all ideal for plant-forward applications spanning from meat and dairy alternatives, to snacks and bars, beverages, meal solutions, and specialized nutrition products. For instance, we recently introduced our MaxFlex™ systems of protein blends, which deliver on-trend protein diversity with high PDCAAS scores (0.89-0.95). By using these blends, formulators can easily achieve pleasing sensory attributes for plant-forward baked goods, snacks, beverages, and specialized nutrition products with added protein claims.
Also under NutriFlex™ are our AccelFlex™ texture and functional systems and EdgeFlex™ full-service platform. AccelFlex™ texture systems are comprised of value-added ingredients purposely designed to address texture, structure, function, and nutrition challenges, whereas EdgeFlex™ provides a finished-product platform to help our customers get from plant-based concepts to finished products with a validated, quick route to market.
Furthermore, we’re leading the charge in the alternative protein space with our launch of Arcon® HM functional soy protein concentrates optimized for high moisture extrusion (HME) and production of a closer to meat-like whole-muscle plant-based offering. These new functional soy protein concentrates help address the taste, texture, structure, functionality, colour, and nutritional challenges of finished plant-based whole muscle-like products and close a gap in alternative protein offerings – opening up opportunities to mimic the sensory experience of traditional meat offerings.
The sensory experience is highly important for consumers considering purchasing plant-based alternatives. How does ADM build appealing plant-based offerings?
While nutrition is important for a majority of shoppers, our primary research underscores that taste is equally important in plant-based products among global plant consumers, who identify as flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan1. We carefully incorporate selected plant proteins to satisfy consumers’ nutritional goals and desires, while also providing functionality and a positive sensory experience. Using vertically integrated, high-quality plant proteins that are clean, neutral-tasting, light in colour, and high in functionality, is vital to creating offerings that capture consumers’ attention and satisfy their needs.
For instance, soy protein remains one of the most crucial plant proteins to replicate the “bite” and “chew” of many plant-based alternatives to beef, chicken, and fish, and is the top plant protein in global alternative product launches. We use our textured soy proteins and our soy protein isolates and concentrates to increase products’ protein content and provide an exceptional meat-like texture. Plus, our wheat protein is a non-GMO option, and it helps to enhance meat-like textures while delivering a neutral, clean flavour.
Our culinary, sensory, and analytical teams create rich and savory vegan flavours and mouthfeel components for meat and dairy alternatives to meet consumers’ sensory expectations with offerings they crave.