FiE 2022: Beneo unveils plant-based chicken chunks to meet flexitarian demands
07 Dec 2022 --- Following its acquisition of Meatless earlier this year, ingredient player Beneo is showcasing its latest meat alternative offering of plant-based chicken chunks at this year’s Food Ingredients Europe (FIE) trade show in Paris.
Planned to release in the second quarter of 2023, Beneo anticipates that the patented and scalable technology used to develop the chunks will appeal to manufacturers attempting to target the growing flexitarian market.
Beneo describes its new chunks as “having a pleasant taste and texture, which is the number one shopping motivator for flexitarian meat and fish alternative consumers.”
With an “authentic fiberous chicken-like structure, a juicy mouthfeel and an irregular shape by design,” Beneo’s vegan chicken chunks offer food producers more recipe versatility. The semi-finished plant-based product will come in fresh or frozen form and is made with main ingredients such as myco- and pea protein, combined with flavoring, Beneo highlights.
Dominique Speleers, member of the executive board at Beneo, tells FoodIngredientsFirst more from the show floor, beginning by addressing the supply concerns that have hit the plant-based sector.
“With plant-based, we don’t have any capacity issues, specifically around imitating meat and fish. With our latest acquisition, there is plenty of capacity available,” he underscores.
Speleers acknowledges the various difficulties the plant-based sector faces now but is confident Beneo’s new products and the Meatless acquisition can help overcome these issues.
“The biggest challenge in plant-based proteins is more about finding the right texture and taste,” he explains.
“As long as you get these right, especially taste, success is possible. That’s why we have big hopes and ambitions with this acquisition around Meatless, because they’ve got a fantastic product that we launched at this FiE – an imitation of chicken chunks. This is really extremely interesting, both from a texture and taste perspective.”
Speleers champions a core tenet of Beneo’s working model in food and production: adaptability. “This product can be adapted to any cuisine. Also, it has a short ingredient system with only two types of proteins: pea protein on one side and mycoprotein on the other, and that’s it. So, also something that the consumer can easily understand.”
Climate change impact grows prominent
Responding to concerns around climate change issues, Speleers acknowledges the impact, especially on chicory, Beneo’s primary source for its prebiotic products.
“With the multiplication of dry years, many crops, including chicory root fiber and sugar beets, have started to suffer. For these crops, it is at the beginning of the growing period when they need water. If you have no water, germination is very poor. Climate change is impacting us a lot,” he says.
However, Beneo is taking an active approach in response to these complications.
“We just finished a major investment in Chile for €90 million (US$94 million) to reduce the specific energy consumption by 35% while increasing capacity by 30%. And we achieve this also with the help of a huge biomass boiler in Chile in place of fossil fuels,” he says.
This is just one facet of its approach toward minimizing energy waste.
“Also, in terms of crops, one way is to use crops that do not need nitrogen. Nitrogen is a fertilizer produced from petroleum. We have selected pulses – such as fava – which can produce nitrogen by themselves.”
Looking to the horizon
According to Speleers, Beneo’s success comes from taking a long-term approach and adapting to short-term issues.
Beneo is diversifying its suppliers to make them less brittle in the face of various crises. “We have found a way to have multiple suppliers, having partnerships with those suppliers, including all farmers so that the security of supply remains very solid for customers,” notes Speleers.
This adaptation, forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, has proven to be a valuable lesson for Beneo.
“The pandemic has had a positive impact on the working environment of our people as it helped to increase their flexibility to balance work and family,” says Speleers.
Post-COVID-19 consumers are looking for boosted immunity. Beneo plans to take advantage of this.
“There are more and more people into prebiotics. Seventy-one percent of them directly link prebiotics and immunity, which is very attractive and trendy these days. That is our main selling argument for the moment,” says Speleers.
“We talk a lot about prebiotics, which was a strange word ten years ago. Today it’s becoming more and more part of the common vocabulary, particularly following COVID-19.”
“As a scientifically based company, we invested a lot of time and money to offer true prebiotics, which the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics also confirmed,” he concludes.
By James Davies, with reporting from Missy Green at FiE 2022
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