A Merit Functional Foods canola and pea protein-processing facility near Winnipeg is slated to be up and running by the end of the year with the help of financial investment from Protein Industries Canada, the company announced at a news conference January 10.
“Our plan is to build processing closer to production, adding value to some of our most important commodities,” said Bill Grueul, CEO of the protein supercluster.
Protein Industries Canada, a federally funded initiative to drive innovation in the protein sector, announced it would invest $9.5 million in Merit Functional Foods.
Merit is working in a consortium with Pitura Seeds and natural health product manufacturer The Winning Combination, which also invested $9.5 million.
Merit co-CEO Ryan Bracken told the conference his company wants to change the perception of plant-based protein, which he said is known for poor solubility and taste.
The company touts its canola and pea products as having “unmatched purity, exceptional taste, and excellent solubility.”
In May, Merit, along with Burcon NutraScience, announced it would build the world’s first commercial-scale canola protein-producing facility in the world. At the time, they said it would open mid-2020.
Bracken said the plant will initially require 20,000 acres’ worth of peas and canola, “growing very rapidly” to over 100,000 metric tons of peas and canola in three to five years.
Bracken told the Manitoba Co-operator that demand will initially be higher for peas than canola.
“We have to go out and create that market (for canola protein),” he said. “But we believe the future really is canola.”
Bracken said Merit will work with Pitura Seeds to develop best management practices for seed genetics, along with cleaning standards that ensure the highest product purity.
Bracken added that once the plant is up and running, products will hit the market in short order.
“We’re working with some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies right now as we speak,” he said.