The Protein Brewery eyes fermentation-based sustainable protein scale up with new plant
04 Jun 2021 --- The Protein Brewery, a Dutch developer of fermentation-based protein, has built a pilot plant equipped with a complete industry line at its premises in Breda, the Netherlands.
The company’s hero product is Fermotein, a whole cell food ingredient with an excellent nutritional value. It is positioned as “an ideal replacement” for animal proteins along the food value chain and is made using very little land and water.
Produced from a wide variety of crops
Fermotein can be produced from a large variety of globally available crops such as cassava, corn, potatoes, sugar cane and sugar beet, resulting in local, scalable and efficient processes worldwide. The Protein Brewery claims it is on track to reach a conclusion for regulatory approval in the US this year.
“Consumer awareness is relatively small for the type of ingredients we are producing as it is still quite new,” Claire Verhagen, communications officer at The Protein Brewery, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“The promise of Fermotein taps into the major consumer demands after the primary driver of taste, such as affordability, health, local availability and sustainability,” she continues.
Fermotein will be made available in a dry powder and as a frozen wet cake, which can be used for a broad variety of products such as meat alternatives, processed meats, pasta, noodles, bakery products, protein bars, shakes and breakfast cereals.
Certified brewing process
The Protein Brewery’s new pilot plant has been designed to facilitate the full process of producing Fermotein. At a scale of 100 kg per day, the pilot plant is equipped to handle raw materials, the brewing process, downstream processing, formulation and packaging.
“Fermotein allows for producing vegan products cheaper than meat,” continues Verhagen. “Down the road, vegan products based on Fermotein will be mainstream. The Protein Brewery strives for impact, making a non-animal-based diet globally available and affordable to all.”
Fermotein has the same essential amino acid profile as meat. It has essential unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and is very rich in dietary fibers and is extremely low in carbohydrates.
Last November, The Protein Brewery netted a €22 million (US$25.7 million) series A investment for the scaling up of its meat alternative solution.
Localized sourcing for shorter supply chains
Fermotein is produced from water-efficient, carbohydrate-rich crops, converting a low nutritional value crop into a high nutritional staple food ingredient that can be applied as the basis for many consumer food products.
“There may be slight variations when applying different raw materials,” states Verhagen. “However, our production process pretty much converts everything into Fermotein. There is no waste and water is being recycled.”
When carbohydrates from water-efficient crops are brewed into Fermotein, the yield in proteins is at least three times higher compared to growing soy on the same parcel.
Independent research shows that Fermotein has favorable environmental impact compared to any kind of meat or plant-based protein sources. A comparative Life Cycle Assessment resulted in 1 kg CO2 per kg of wet Fermotein and 3 kg CO2 per kg of dry Fermotein.
After the initial setup of The Protein Brewery’s new facility last March, operations were ready to be audited for food safety in April, resulting in an ISO 22000:2018 certification for TPB’s full operations.
Road to commercialization
Since completing the development, installation and certification of the operations, batches of Fermotein have been delivered to various business partners.
These partners, mostly international food producers, use the samples for evaluation and development purposes and production trials.
“After years of intensive research and tests in the laboratory, we started our route to the commercialization of protein products made by fermentation technologies in 2020,” says Wim de Laat, founder of The Protein Brewery.
“Together with the team, we have been able to successfully enter the next phase: produce Fermotein in a scalable way,” he remarks. “It enables our customers, global food developers, to test our product and make it ready for worldwide consumption.”
“With the US approval process for Fermotein as a food ingredient on track, we are ready to further explore our first market and demonstrate our food ingredient in various food products such as meat and fish replacers, vegan snacks and many more.”
Additionally, building, testing and running the pilot plant has provided the data for both the preferred equipment and engineering parameters for the design of our commercial demo plant.
The alternative protein race
Fermentation methods used to cultivate sustainable protein are similarly leveraged in product development of Those Vegan Cowboys, founded by the former owners of The Vegetarian Butcher. The company is currently leveraging microbial fermentation methods for producing caseins, among relevant developments within this space.
Last April, the Good Food Institute and more than 60 key players and stakeholders in the alternative protein space called on the US federal government to make investing in the science and technology of alt-proteins a “national priority” in the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Meanwhile, research recently conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corporation Consumption concludes that animal-based produce in the US and Europe could be on its way down after hitting a “peak meat” apex in 2025.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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