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Ingredient challenges in plant protein: How Equinom’s Manna™ could be the answer

According to Future Market Insights research, the global plant-based food industry is gaining traction, growing with a robust CAGR of 12.2 % during 2022-2032. It is moving into mainstream adoption gradually. However, the industry is still riddled with challenges and still has a long way to go before meeting flexitarian consumers' demands for wholesome, reasonably priced alternatives to dairy and meat that, above all else, taste great. The category has therefore experienced high trial rates, but declines in usage frequency and repeat purchases!

With taste, texture and formulation being the make or break factor for the plant based industry, superior ingredients that cater to those functionalities is the single most important success factor for this industry, but also a key challenge. There is limited supply of crops that can deliver high protein content and this is where food technology companies like Equinom come into play, which is aimed at partnering with various food and plant protein ingredients companies globally to deal with the shortage in supply of quality ingredients with superior crops at the core. Equinom is bringing together expertise in agriculture, food, and technology to create nutrient-rich, tastier, non-GMO variants of plant protein crops designed specifically for food applications.

To shed some more light on Equinom’s strategies to solve the ingredient sourcing challenges, Future Market Insights interviewed Mr. Gil Shalev, CEO, Founder and the driving force behind Equinom!

Present day scenario of the plant protein industry

According to a market analysis conducted by Future Market Insights, the global plant protein market experienced a year-over-year (YOY) expansion of 6.7% in 2021 to reach overall sales of USD 11.3 Billion. It is predicted to exceed USD 22.5 Billion in 2032 and grow at a steady CAGR of 7.2% during 2022-2032. A significant factor promoting the growth of the plant-based protein market is the increasing demand for plant-based protein on a global scale due to shifting consumer preferences.

Although there is a lot of demand in this market, there exist significant challenges that are restraining the expansion of this market, notably challenges in ingredient sourcing and supply that can meet the formulation criteria of plant based food to make it affordable, tasty, and healthy. Equinom is focused on solving these challenges and increasing the supply of ingredients in abundance. They make use of technology to breed higher quality crops that are both tastier and affordable and can enhance the growth of the global plant-based protein industry.

Key ingredient challenges facing the plant protein industry today

One of the biggest challenges is the fact that the protein crops that are at the heart

of plant-based products were never intended for use in food. They were mainly used in livestock feed. Therefore trying to force fit such commodity crops to make delectable dairy and meat alternatives is problematic and holding back category growth.

This leads us to the second important challenge which is high cost intensive protein isolation and extraction facilities that are needed to convert lower quality commodity crops into food-grade proteins. Building and operating such cost intensive processing facilities is one of the biggest supply chain challenges facing the plant protein industry today.

The third key challenge is in the high processing required to extract the desired protein concentrate from these low quality commodity crops. This again leads to increase in overall cost of production and therefore hiked retail prices for plant based food.

All of this has led to a major supply bottleneck which again is keeping the prices high for this industry and hindering scalable growth in the plant protein market.

In order to address these challenges, the industry must act together to accelerate the creation of a bio-diverse, plant-forward food system that will bring large-scale growth and scale. The key is creating value throughout the supply chain—for farmers, ingredient processors, food companies, retailers and ultimately consumers

How is Equinom addressing these missing links in the plant protein industry?

Equinom, one of the leaders in food-tech, is working to address the challenges confronting the plant protein market – starting from the source, with the help of their patented Manna™  technology and without the use of genetic engineering. Equinom has been concentrating on breeding source crops for the ingredients that are optimized for food applications since its establishment in 2012 because better crops require less processing to be turned into food, which reduces energy and water use, while increasing food quality, affordability, and taste.

Along the entire supply chain, starting from the farmers to processors and food developers, Equinom collaborates with partners to provide value at each stage. High-protein variants of yellow pea, as well as soy varieties in North America have just been harvested by Equinom’s cooperating farmers. Additionally, they have breeding programs set up for additional climate resilient plant protein crops like fava, chickpea, cowpea, and mung bean.

How Equinom’s Manna™ technology platform is enabling supply of high quality plant protein ingredients

The AI-based Manna™ platform from Equinom makes use of big data and cutting-edge algorithms to grow better food without the use of genetic engineering. To understand the factors that influence desired agronomic traits (like yield and disease resistance) as well as desired food functionality as well as sensory traits, the platform examines the biochemical and genomic composition of over 250,000 kinds of seeds in their extensive seed vault.

Equinom can naturally breed elevated varieties of such source crops, particularly for food applications by efficiently predicting ideal breeding configurations from billions of potential combinations using the Manna™  technology platform. Equinom breeds new varieties of crops at a faster rate by eliminating much of the speculation, reducing breeding time by 50 percent. As a consequence, high-quality ingredients are specially designed to meet the requirements of food companies, enabling them to develop the most satisfactory as well as sustainable plant-based foods so far.

Innovative and effective ingredient concepts from Equinom

Equinom’s high-protein yellow pea varieties (which are naturally non-GMO) are revolutionary for the market because they can provide results in a range of food applications that are comparable to those of highly processed pea protein strains. With the aid of chemical-free dry fractionation, Equinom is currently collaborating with partners to transform these crops into high-quality, food-grade pea protein on a commercial level. They have been collaborating for a while with several food manufacturers who are using this pea protein in their new product lines. Equinom also has proof of concept for their patented Smarter Sesame, which was being bred for optimal protein as well as for its oil content. Furthermore, they have also made strides in incorporating innovative varieties of other protein-rich and climate-resilient crops such as chickpeas, fava, cowpeas, and mung beans.

Equinom’s growth strategy in the plant protein market

Given Equinom's ability to lessen reliance on the bulky processing that is a significant industry roadblock, the plant based market can be made cost competitive. Higher-quality crops being bred by Equinom has the ability to alter the economics of the plant-based supply chain and unleash growth across the board. Also, with reduced need for processing, plant based brands can deliver on their consumers desire to purchase less of processed food.

Demonstrating success for their initial ingredient concepts based on superior crops, Equinom has an aggressive growth plan in North America and are on track to significantly increase acres of crop varieties in the coming years. In addition, they are also working to expand into other markets such as Europe and Asia.