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Burcon engages advisor to further explore canola properties

By staff reporter , 07-Dec-2006

Burcon Nutrascience, the company behind Puratein and Supertein, is to investigate issues relating to the physiochemical properties and nutritional characteristics of canola meal and canola protein.

Together with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the Canadian R&D company has been developing Puratein and Supertein for potential use in foods and dietary supplements. It is now investing in expertise on topics from assay methods to seed selection, and has hired Dr. James Daun to advise the team at its technical centre and pilot facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The process of bringing Puratein and Supertein to market has been long, and this new hire signals research is ongoing for the promising ingredients.

"We pride ourselves in being one of the leaders with respect to canola protein and Jim's expertise clearly complements the strengths of our existing team," said Burcon president and COO, Johann Tergesen.

Burcon said the goal of its research is to develop its patented process to utilize inexpensive oilseed meals for the production of purified plant proteins - with Puratein and Supertein for now at the forefront - that exhibit valuable nutritional, functional or nutraceutical profiles.

Puratein and Supertein are set 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.

However, the process of bringing the ingredients to market has not been easy. 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.

In 1999, Burcon bought the Puratein and Supertein 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 flavor and color.

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.

Burcon recently secured three-way material transfer agreements with food and beverage companies for the provision of Puratein and Supertein samples to test the ingredients' potential in foods and dietary supplements.

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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