Plant-based potential: Kerry’s joint venture with Ojah & Korys set to boost plant protein innovation

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08 May 2018 --- As part of Kerry’s ambition to become a market leader in the supply of innovative plant proteins, the Taste and Nutrition company recently announced a joint venture with Ojah BV, a market-leading pioneer in the production of plant-based meat alternatives based in the Netherlands.

Kerry is to become the majority shareholder of the company, next to Ojah management and Korys, the investment holding of the Belgian Colruyt family. Going forward, Korys and Kerry will co-control the joint venture and the new partnership will focus on strengthening relations with current customers, establishing international opportunities and developing new plant-based products.

This joint venture combines Ojah’s proprietary technology to produce “best-in-class” plant-based protein products, with Kerry’s 40 years of food-focused heritage, its extensive global insights and marketplace knowledge, as well as its culinary and applications expertise.  This will ensure that customers of this joint venture, will be able to future-proof their businesses, by bringing unique and innovative solutions to the market, to meet the nutritional and taste demands of their consumers now and long into the future.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Dr. Albert McQuaid, Chief Technology Officer, Kerry said: “We have already been investing and expanding into the whole area of plant protein for some time and it is growing quite rapidly. If you look at the space that Ojah is in, plant protein is driven around the whole concern around sustainability, the move to flexitarianism, vegan lifestyles and the overall reduction in consumption of meat mainly by nutritional and sustainability concerns. We see that sector continuing to grow, and when we saw the Ojah product, we were very impressed by the quality and the technology that they have the texture of the protein that they can make in the alternative meatspace. We have ongoing discussions last year with them and we saw a potential of synergies between them we saw them as having core technology capabilities around the whole area of protein and texture, but we could add that, so it’s that link up by which we are building on through this joint venture.”

“As we begin to align and work closely with Ojah, we will be striving to work together to combine our collective expertise and knowledge, to bring new and innovative products to market, using the innovation, technological know-how and scientific expertise, which sits at the core of our two organizations.”

“This combined entity, together with ourselves, Ojah and Kory made sense that we link up,” he adds.

With mouth-watering taste and texture the Ojah plant-protein product has only two ingredients; plant-based proteins and water.  The product is non-GMO, gluten-free, and clean label. It is manufactured in the Netherlands by Ojah at its BRC-certified facility and sold under the Beeter brand in the domestic market and the Plenti brand internationally.

“Extrusion for meat alternatives has been around for a long time,” says Dr. McQuaid. “The unique processing that has been developed focuses on high quality of the texture, taste and the mouthfeel of the finished product. For the alternative meat space, we felt that Ojah’s capabilities were better than anything else out there in the market, and we felt it had a great position. There are some technologies that are in the early stages but with this technology, it has been commercialized and it probably needed a company, like Kerry to expand beyond the level that it is at today.”

According to Dr. McQuaid, there are still plenty of opportunities for plant-based proteins. “Currently, there are lots of available products in this space. But if you look at the taste and textures, I think there is still room for improvement to meet consumer demand. The label declarations are not very clean and there is demand from consumers to have much cleaner and trusted ingredients – that is likely to be the next stage – delivering alternative proteins with good texture, taste and at a cost level that is permissible for the market,” he notes.

For an ideal protein, you have to look at a protein that is in abundance and that is relevant to this sector, says Dr. McQuaid. “Pea protein is one of the proteins that is growing the most in this space and from a price and volume perspective, that would make it a suitable candidate,” he claims. “But inherently, pea comes with functional and taste challenges and at Kerry, we have an integral understanding of protein technology that we can build on to improve the quality of what pea might deliver in these instances.”

Looking to the future, Dr. McQuaid believes that there may be opportunities for combining meat protein with plant protein, as a solution to sustainable offerings. “I think this is to be tried and tested, but it’s certainly something that could become viable in the future,” he states.

“Mainstream meat companies are coming into this space and the whole protein area is becoming the focus for some of these companies and that can be a combination of meat and plant protein. They will perhaps look to explore combined options for plant and meat protein together and whether or not consumers will react to that, we won’t know until it happens, but it’s an interesting concept that probably needs to be explored.”

For Dr. McQuaid, sustainability is a fundamental driver in this market, and the plant-based initiative is driving the back end of this. “If you looked back thirty years ago, quality was the primary driver but now today sustainability has come to the forefront of this ad consumers are becoming much more aware of the sustainable nature of the foods that they consume. That is becoming a more significant part of the decision making process.”

“This joint venture is ideal for making these protein processes more sustainable, in answer to consumers looking for sustainable solutions,” he continues. “We are extremely excited and pleased about the venture with Ojah and looking forward to what we can create together in the future.”  

By Elizabeth Green

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