James Cameron at Vanscoy plant

James Cameron at the opening of the new plant protein research facility in Vanscoy, Sask.

Canadian grocery retailers may soon be able to stock their shelves with high protein, pea-based products if research at a new pea processing plant in Saskatchewan comes to fruition.

Investors, including movie director and environmentalist James Cameron, are committing tens of millions of dollars to the venture, according to a Globe and Mail story. The research is taking place at a new food plant in Vanscoy, Saskatechewan, operated by Verdient Foods. Cameron was on hand at the plant opening a few months ago.

Researchers say that dough made from pea flour yields bread that resembles any other for look and taste, but offers more protein and lower carbohydrate and gluten content.

It will also capitalize on the rising popularity of plant-based protein. The market for plant-based foods could reach $5 billion by 2020, and peas are one of the “wonder foods” of this new trend. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says 170 new food products containing pea protein were launched in 2015, 32 of them in Canada, where about a third of the global crop of pulses (peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas) is grown.

Other players have entered the market in a big way. Last September French food corporation Roquette committed $400 million to build the largest pea-processing plant in the world, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

The plant protein trend is being driven by two huge demographic cohorts – baby boomers and millennials – who are concerned about their own health and that of the environment. A turn to plant-based foods could help reduce the environmental impact of meat production, say environmental groups. Food producers and retailers are aware of the strengthening market presence of food products that are healthy, good for the environment and free of animal products.

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