While plant-based proteins work well in bars and snacks, they can have a strong taste at higher inclusion levels, while they can also be negatively impacted by heat and acidity, which has historically limited their application.
Burcon, however, has developed patented mechanical [as opposed to chemical or enzymatic] processes that can remove the off notes and enable plant protein isolates to be added at high levels to challenging applications such as low pH beverages (sports drinks, energy drinks, juices and enhanced waters), and non-dairy creamers, without impacting flavor or texture, says corporate development director Michael Kirwan.
As they are heat-stable, they also work well in hot-fill beverages or drinks typically consumed hot.
No need for flavor masking agents
Its Peazazz pea protein isolate, for example, is heat-stable, has a clean taste and is 100% soluble and transparent in low pH beverages, with low viscosity, a unique proposition on the market, says Kirwan.
And given that the non-dairy creamer market is worth more than $3bn, being able to add plant-proteins such as CLARISOY to coffee – an acidic product with a pH value in the range of 4.0-4.5 (which causes most soy products to coagulate, a process exacerbated by the heat) – is a potentially exciting commercial opportunity not open to rival plant-based protein companies, he adds.
“It’s effectively invisible protein that you can use in high inclusion rates at broader range of applications including acidic pasteurized beverages without using flavor maskers.”
Why is it taking so long to commercialize pea and canola protein isolates?
But if Burcon’s pea and canola protein isolates are as compelling as its soy protein isolates from a functional standpoint, why is it taking so long to commercialize them [thus far, Burcon has only struck a deal to commercialize CLARISOY]?
Lots of reasons, says Kirwan, who notes that the plant-based protein market outside of soy is still relatively new, and that for a company to commit to the capex to build a full-scale manufacturing facility utilizing Burcon’s technology, it needs to have significant commitments from customers to justify the investment, and R&D projects at large CPG companies tend to move at a glacially slow pace.
In other words, the ducks have to be lined up in a row right across the supply chain to make this work, and that takes time.
Burcon has a 20-year global licensing agreement with ADM, which will market, produce and sell Burcon’s ‘invisible’ soy protein isolate CLARISOY to food and beverage customers. Burcon will receive quarterly royalties on top line sales.
CLARISOY has a clean flavor and smooth mouthfeel, making it ideal to replace dairy proteins in applications such as drinkable yogurts, shakes and smoothies, along with low-pH beverages such as enhanced waters, sports drinks, energy drinks and juice drinks.
"With the prospect of two product lines hitting the market, we believe the next 12 to 18 months could be transformative for Burcon.”
Stonegate Capital Partners, September 2016
That said, Burcon is now talking to “multi-national food ingredient providers” about “a royalty or a joint operations agreement” to take Peazazz to market, and Kirwan says he remains confident it will strike a deal with a manufacturing partner, because no one else can deliver the same functionality.
Canola protein has been a tougher sell [BioExx is one high profile casualty in this market, although it had a different product and business model to Burcon], although Kirwan is equally confident that Burcon will ultimately find a partner to take it to market.
“Right now pea protein is hotter, but we’re still getting enquiries about all our proteins, from canola to hemp,” he added.