CEO, Protein Industries Canada
Co-Founder, Lumi Foods
Innovation in Canada’s plant-based food and ingredients sector opens the door to the next generation of healthy and flavourful protein options for Canadians.
Protein is essential to human health, but consuming animal products isn’t the only way to get it into our diets. Thanks to Canada’s abundance of high-protein crops, increased ingredient manufacturing, and innovations in the plant-based food sector, there are more ways to enjoy non-animal protein than ever before.
“A number of fundamentals are underpinning the growth in this sector,” says Bill Greuel, CEO at Protein Industries Canada, an industry-led, not-for-profit organization created to position Canada as a global source of high-quality plant protein and plant-based co-products, and one of Canada’s five Global Innovation Clusters. “A significant one is that many of today’s consumers are making food choices with their values in mind, whether that be environmental sustainability, animal welfare, or health and nutrition, and are choosing alternative meats or alternative dairy from plant-based sources.”
While values are important to these consumers, so are good taste and affordability. “This is why innovation is so important, and I think what we’re seeing now is really the next generation of products like plant-based cheeses that have the taste, feel, texture, and functionality of traditional cheese,” says Greuel.
A significant one is that many of today’s consumers are making food choices with their values in mind, whether that be environmental sustainability, animal welfare, or health and nutrition, and are choosing alternative meats or alternative dairy from plant-based sources.
The work of multiple partners is accelerating innovation and time to market
Through funding from the Government of Canada and co-investment from private-sector partners, Protein Industries Canada is helping Canadian companies in the plant-based food sector de-risk their innovation investment and reduce the time from concept to market. “We help with everything from advanced breeding technology to increase protein content and functionality, to digital agriculture to improve on-farm efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint, to fostering collaborative R&D to help solve some of their technical challenges,” says Greuel.
This public-private collaboration between entrepreneurs and researchers also enables the plant-based food sector to better utilize the diverse selection of Canadian-grown crops in new plant-based ingredients, foods, and beverages. “All the work we’re doing around the support and development of high-value ingredients for products is increasing the processing capacity here in Canada, which creates jobs and reduces the carbon footprint because you’re no longer shipping raw commodities to other markets to be processed or importing high-value ingredients to Canada from elsewhere,” says Greuel.
Trailblazing companies are driving change, new products, and economic growth
Vancouver-based Lumi Foods (formerly Blue Heron Creamery) is a case in point. The pioneering vegan cheese manufacturer recently formed a consortium with Protein Industries Canada, Crush Dynamics (formerly Winecrush Technology), and Save-On-Foods to create and distribute a new line of vegan cheeses using traditional cultured cheese-making methods.
“This consortium is allowing us to accelerate some of the work we’re doing to transition away from reliance on tropical ingredients to more Canadian-grown ingredients like oats, pulses, and legumes,” says Karen McAthy, Co-Founder of Lumi Foods. “Being within the Protein Industries Canada framework is also allowing us access to collaborative research and the opportunity to develop more internal relationships that would have taken much longer to do otherwise.”
This partnership is an example of the many private-sector industry partners that Protein Industries Canada intends to work with to create co-investment projects that have the potential to transform the agriculture and food production sector and allow Canada to secure its position as a global leader in the production of plant-based products and co-products.
Positioning Canada as a global leader in plant-based food production
That’s good news not only for the industry but for Canada’s economy. “We believe that by increasing our crop processing and plant-based food production from where it is today, we can grow the market to $25 billion by 2035, which is about a 12 to 13 percent compound annual growth rate. There are very few industries in Canada that are primed for that rate of growth,” says Greuel.
More good news for the plant-based food sector is on the horizon. In the latest federal budget, the Government of Canada announced a re-capitalization of the program through which Protein Industries Canada derives its funding. “We’re looking forward to another five-year mandate and are thankful to the Government of Canada for its reinvestment in the plant-based food sector,” says Greuel. ”This is an important growth sector for Canada’s economy, so it’s great to see the government recognizing that.”