France’s Roquette bets on pea protein with Manitoba plant

Paris | Reuters — French plant-based ingredient maker Roquette will build the world’s largest pea protein facility in Manitoba to meet fast-growing demand for vegetable protein in food and pharmaceutical products in North America, the group said Wednesday.

The global pea protein market has seen a sharp rise in recent years, mainly driven by increasing demand for processed and healthy food.

The new factory, representing an investment of more than $400 million, will be located west of Winnipeg in the RM of Portage la Prairie, where construction is expected to start before the end of this year.

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Canada is the world’s largest producer of peas, with 30 per cent of global output.

“It was a really perfect fit for us putting a plant right in the middle of the largest pea producing area in the world for probably one of the fastest growing markets for pea protein, i.e. North America,” Roquette chief executive Jean-Marc Gilson told Reuters.

Gilson and Roquette chairman Edouard Roquette made their announcement Wednesday in Winnipeg alongside Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

The company’s facility, which is expected to create about 150 jobs, is due to start production in 2019.

Pea protein, extracted from the yellow pea, is used in a range of allergen-free and vegetarian food products including snacks, nutrition bars, soups, sauces, pasta, biscuits and meat alternatives.

Hospitals have also turned to vegetable protein as it helps rebuild muscle mass and for elderly people who have difficulty digesting animal protein.

The global pea protein market is expected to grow by 13.5 per cent per year in volume to reach around US$200 million by 2023, research firm Global Market Insights said in a report.

The launch of its Canadian unit will make Roquette the word’s top producer of pea protein for human nutrition, Gilson said.

Family-owned Roquette has been extracting protein from peas since 2005 in France, where it has been expanding output to meet growing European demand for the product.

Roquette, which has sales of around 3.3 billion euros, expects to process up to 250,000 tonnes of locally-sourced peas by 2019, a volume split equally between the French and Canadian factories, Gilson said.

Asked whether the group had other plans in the sector Gilson said it was too early to say but he hoped the Canadian investment would be followed by many others.

“We are at the beginning of a new market segment, a new industry,” he said.

The company said it chose Manitoba for the new facility on the quality of the province’s available workforce, its location as a transportation hub and its access to reliable and affordable hydroelectric power.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler, in a separate release, described the planned as “an enormous boost to our agricultural economy as a whole and… an exciting opportunity for Manitoba to continue to build its reputation as a leader in food development and processing.”

Apart from the growing demand for peas as a protein source, he noted they’re also a “sustainable crop, complementing the land management and environmental stewardship techniques practiced by our farmers.”

— Sybille de La Hamaide reports for Reuters from Paris. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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