Authors: Carlo Dade, Naomi Christensen and Sarah Pittman
Plant ingredients present the type of opportunity that only comes once in a generation.
Around the world, a growing middle class with more money to spend on food has an appetite for more and better options. Consumers in North America and Europe want green and sustainable food choices. Demand for protein, including plant-based protein, and other plant-based ingredients, is sky-rocketing.
The good news is that Canada’s Prairie provinces already grow many of the crops, including lentils, peas and beans, that are in demand to be processed into plant ingredient components, such as protein, fibre and starch. The even better news is that we are well-placed not only to enter the non-soy plant ingredient processing sector – and take advantage of the value-added possibilities that entails – but to dominate it.
In addition to food and beverages, plant-based ingredients are in high demand for use in nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, pet food and animal feed. They are also incredibly high in value. The demand for plant-based protein alone is already valued at more than US$8 billion and growing rapidly, and this is only one of the ingredients that can be extracted from crops.
Together, the Prairies have the capacity to dominate the plant ingredient market, and should combine resources to do so. The three provinces already grow large volumes of well-suited crops and have had successful early investments into processing facilities. They house the plant-science research and development required to commercialize new varietals with the right ingredient characteristics. Good transportation and logistics infrastructure, a sound regulatory system and a global reputation as a reliable supplier are also strengths.
The region’s preferential access to the United States, the largest existing market for plant-based ingredients, is another advantage our competitors lack. Plant ingredient processing is a global opportunity with global competition. Provinces can choose to compete against each other, or they can collaborate and compete against the rest of the world. This collaboration involves all actors – government, researchers and industry players. Plant ingredient processing offers a realistic path for export growth and diversification for the Prairie economy. Agricultural exports are already a western strength. Diversifying from this strength makes sense.
To pursue this opportunity, we recommend
The provinces, federal government and industry:
• Prioritize the plant-based ingredients sector.
• Continue support for research, particularly commercialization.
• Leverage publicly funded Intellectual Property (IP).
The Prairie provinces:
• Protect access to the U.S. market.
• Improve transportation for exporting ingredients.