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Burcon/ADM canola proteins inch closer to market

By Clarisse Douaud , 08-Nov-2006

Burcon NutraScience said it has secured three-way material transfer agreements for the provision of proprietary canola protein samples to undisclosed third parties for testing, following a bid for participants in August.

Together with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the Canadian R&D company is providing samples of Puratein and Supertein to food and beverage companies for testing potential uses in foods and dietary supplements. Material transfer agreements (MTAs) allow third parties to test ingredients while protecting intellectual property interests.

The MTAs indicate that Puratein and Supertein are inching closer to shaking up the protein market, where they may one day compete with existing soy, dairy, and egg ingredients.

"We have continued to focus our efforts on getting Puratein and Supertein into the new product innovation centers of the major food and beverage companies so that they can test-drive them in their products," said Burcon president and COO Johann Tergesen. "We look forward to working with these potential partners in creating opportunities and applications for our proteins."

Beginning in 1990, the development process for the proprietary ingredients has been a long one.

The names of partnering companies are not being disclosed, but they are "major food and beverage companies", Burcon said in August.

Puratein and Supertein are poised to compete with animal-based proteins, because they have similar characteristics to egg yolks and egg-whites yet are plant-based.

Burcon says the protein ingredients have economic value because of this potential to replace egg, dairy and other proteins in a number of broad applications such as emulsifying, gelling, and binding. Additionally, according to the company, Supertein's solubility profile suggests potential for its use in beverages - particularly low pH beverages - where traditional protein ingredients experience challenges.

With over six years of research and development and a price tag of $20mn behind them, Burcon and ADM have high hopes for their investment.

The Puratein and Supertein story shifted gears in 1999 when Burcon bought the technology from BMW Canola. Then, in 2003, Burcon signed a partnership with ADM to bring the proteins to market and work on ways to make them more appealing to food manufacturers, by improving flavour and colour.

The high protein efficiency ratio for canola is more than double that of soy, according to Burcon. This ratio measures a growing animal's total weight gain versus the weight of protein consumed during the same period.

Despite its strengths, Canola protein is still only at the stage where it can dream of achieving a similar market position to the main plant-based protein, soy. The US soy protein industry was worth $2.5 billion in 2006, according to market analyst Soyatech.

Canola is the second-largest oilseed crop in the world after soybeans. The oilseed not only has a high level of protein purity, without prohibitive fat levels, but it also has an amino acid content comparable to animal proteins and superior to that of soy proteins.

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