The KeyLeaf Team didn’t have to travel far to attend the 12th Plant Protein Ingredients Summit 2019 held in their hometown of Saskatoon, Canada, May 29-31. The event, sponsored by The Netherlands-based organization Bridge2Food, was host to more than 300 companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs servicing the plant-based ingredients industry, and offered an opportunity for attendees from around the world to connect and network with their peers, apprise themselves of important new technologies and industry strategies, and explore and develop new business opportunities evolving around the increasing global demand for plant-based protein ingredients.
KeyLeaf’s Rick Green was one of the Summit’s invited speakers and gave a presentation addressing the latest innovations in plant protein processing.
KeyLeaf also participated in pre-arranged B2B meetings with companies who were potentially interested in KeyLeaf’s offerings of essential oils, algal oil, hemp ingredients, novel proteins and other ongoing developments. These meetings resulted in several promising new business opportunities. KeyLeaf’s participation in the summit also allowed the company to reinforce its new KeyLeaf rebrand with suppliers and customers who knew them as POS before the company changed names.
Takeaways: What we learned (or relearned) at the Summit.
- 1. Saskatchewan is the plant-based ingredients industry’s “best kept secret”
Home to KeyLeaf, Saskatchewan’s global plant protein industry has been growing for decades and dozens of agribusinesses have invested here. The province is the world’s top exporter of lentils and dry peas, which means agri-value companies have the supply they need right in their backyard. Saskatchewan is a partner in Canada’s new research supercluster, Protein Industries Canada, opening up new opportunities for plant protein research and commercialization.
This summit provided Saskatchewan and Western Canada to show the world that it has built a very strong network with full vertical integration: the entire supply chain is here, right from the development of new plant varieties with lots of land available to grow these crops on at good economy scale.
- The Industry must figure out “sustainability”:
Summit attendees put major focus on solving the processing issues that influence sustainability in order to open the plant protein marketplace. A growing number of consumers are demanding “clean labels” and “sustainable” plant proteins, but what does that mean? Does it mean consumers want the industry to develop crops that require less water? Do we need new equipment that requires less electricity? Which crops are truly sustainable, meaning carbon neutral? Which crops can replenish the soil with nitrogen? And when a company announces it is “sustainable” what does that mean exactly? Correctly defining and achieving sustainability is an opportunity and challenge for the entire industry at every level.
- 3. Demand for plant-based protein is out-pacing supply
KeyLeaf spoke with companies whose sales have paused due to an unavailability of plant protein. The question this raises is, with global consumer appetites for new plant-based foods increasing, how can our industry meet the protein needs of 9 billion people in a sustainable, healthy, and environmentally friendly way?
- The industry’s new theme for success: “Openness & Collaboration”
The Summit was very much a collaborative environment between large and small companies, entrepreneurs, and government agencies. The KeyLeaf team experienced a real openness from all of them about sharing information and resources in an attempt to grow the industry… and that’s something that one doesn’t normally see. We have arrived at a point in the industry where the major companies are virtually begging for more collaboration; they know that if you can put the growers, and the food chemists and the marketers and the researchers and the packagers all together to talk on a regular basis and let them be open about their problems and needs, you’re going to wind up with a vastly better product for the consumer.
To sum up the prevailing attitude of the Summit participants: “Yes, we all have a goal to conduct viable businesses, but there is a large world to feed, it’s a big opportunity, and we all need to come together and do this.”