• Australian Plant Proteins was founded in 2016 by Melbourne-based agricultural investment management company EAT Group. Its plant protein fraction plant is in Horsham, Victoria.
    Australian Plant Proteins was founded in 2016 by Melbourne-based agricultural investment management company EAT Group. Its plant protein fraction plant is in Horsham, Victoria.
  • Australian Plant Proteins' unique fractionation process is a major value-added step for Australia’s legume and pulse supply chain.
    Australian Plant Proteins' unique fractionation process is a major value-added step for Australia’s legume and pulse supply chain.

A major gap in Australia’s ability to become a global plant protein powerhouse will be addressed by a major project to increase local processing of plant-based proteins.

Led by Australian Plant Proteins (APP), Australia’s only commercial scale pulse protein extraction facility, together with Thomas Foods International and pulse and ingredient supplier AGT Foods Australia, the project will see $378 million invested in the construction of three plant protein manufacturing facilities supplying domestic and international markets.

It will quadruple the production of pulse protein in South Australia to 25,000 tonnes a year. The state produces more than a quarter of all Australian pulses, with the increase creating new high value-added domestic supply options for pulse growers.

APP launched its first processing plant in 2020, using a proprietary fractionation process to develop protein isolates from yellow peas, mung beans, chickpeas, red lentils and yellow lentils.

APP co-founder and director Brendan McKeegan said: “As soon as we commenced commercial production in November 2020, demand soared for our faba bean protein isolate in Australia and internationally, with customers impressed with the product’s high functionality and clean taste.”

That high functionality of the faba bean protein isolate stems from APP’s process that retains protein quality during production.

Last year, APP secured $45.7 million from global agrifood company Bunge.

Bunge’s VP Kaleb Belzer said the partnership would build a competitive advantage.

“By combining APP’s proprietary extraction technology with our application expertise and global sales and distribution networks, we provide a significant competitive advantage in making quality plant protein accessible to customers around the world,” Belzer said. 

Premier: a transformational project

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said the project was transformational and would create a large-scale plant-based food and beverage value chain for the state. The state government has committed $65 million.

“It unlocks an entirely new export industry for the state and the nation. South Australia is already world-renowned for our premium food and produce and we now have a first mover opportunity to capitalise on the emerging global demand for plant protein-based food,” Marshall said.

Thomas Foods says the time was right

Major South Australian business Thomas Foods International’s group managing director Darren Thomas told Food & Drink Business that the company had been evaluating opportunities in plant-based protein products for a number of years.

“It felt like the time was right and the consortium presented the right approach.

“We’re now considering a number of possible locations and conducting feasibility to determine the appropriate site to build a new purpose-built facility for this project,” Thomas said.

As a major red meat processing company, producing, and selling premium lamb, beef, mutton and goat products right across the world, Thomas Foods is not the first animal protein business to invest in the plant-based variety.

Last year, the world’s largest animal protein company JBS entered an agreement to purchase Europe’s third-largest plant-based food producer Vivera for $528.8 million (€341), its third acquisition in the sector.

Thomas said, “For Thomas Foods International, we see plant-based protein as a natural complement to our traditional product offering and allows us to reach new markets and customers.” 

At its core TFI was a “proud red meat processing company”, Thomas said, “But at the same time, the market for plant-based products is also expanding rapidly and we see great opportunity to leverage our experience and expertise into this exciting new opportunity for local farmers and consumers across the globe.”

Federal government contributes $113 million

Federal finance minister and South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham announced the federal government was contributing $113 million under the Collaboration Stream of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative to the project.

It is expected to create up to 1345 construction jobs and 384 new direct manufacturing jobs by 2024 and eventually support more than 8500 new full-time positions in the supply chain and economy by 2034. 

It is also expected to generate up to $4 billion in exports by 2032, including to the US, South-East Asia and Europe.

Birmingham said it was, “a major step forward in transforming South Australia into a plant-based protein manufacturing and export powerhouse”.

“This investment by Government along with the private sector will put South Australia ahead of the pack in the manufacturing of products for the high-growth domestic and booming global plant-based foods market.

“It will not only generate thousands of local jobs but has the potential to generate billions in export dollars for our state,” he said.

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said it was projects like this that would spur further private investment to help our manufactures scale up. 

“Australian made food products with Australian produced and manufactured ingredients will give our food manufacturers a significant advantage in this rapidly expanding global

“We also know that for every manufacturing job we create, at least another three are generated in other industries thanks the multiplier effect that our investments have on the broader economy,” Taylor said.   

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