$19-million investment made into R&D project to create new oat, pulse ingredients

About $19.2-million is being invested into a research & development project that will aid in creating new oat and pulse ingredients and products.

Avena Foods will be doing most of the heavy lifting on the R&D side, with the new ingredients being used by Big Mountain Foods, Danone Canada, and Old Dutch to replace several common ingredients in their respective products.

A joint news release notes Avena “will further optimize and refine specialty-milled oat and pulse flours, while also creating specialty-milled pulse grits, meals and flours that match each customer’s unique processes. These minimally processed ingredients will be used to reformulate and develop new consumer-ready food products that are nutritious and made from clean-label and sustainably sourced oat and pulse ingredients.”

Regina-based Protein Industries Canada is investing $7.3-million into the project and the remaining balance from the participating companies. Chief Technology Officer for Protein Industries Canada Megan Gervais says a project like this is something they love to focus on. “It really will help an ingredient manufacturer to continue to develop their technology to bring new ingredients out to market,” Gervais said. “But what we really like is seeing those ingredients deployed into the food system and so having three separate food companies come into the project and say ‘these are ingredients that we want and these are the ways that we’re going to use them’ is a really exciting type of investment for us to be able to make.”

Gervais says Avena Foods and Big Mountain Foods had participated in projects with Protein Industries Canada during the latter’s first 5-year mandate but said what is most exciting is seeing new companies come in after seeing the success of other projects.

CEO of Avena Foods Wayne Arsenault says the project will be done at two of their facilities, one in Regina and the other in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Arsenault also appreciates the financial help from Protein Industries Canada, calling it “critical”.

“It bodes well for the growth and innovation of Canadian agriculture in order to grow,” Arsenault added. “It’s not just that, it’s also the connections they make to other technical groups to help us learn and get expertise in order to be able to come up with new and innovative ways of providing ingredient substitutes to make existing products more healthy or offer up new potential opportunities for products to be made in the future.”

Arsenault noted research & development projects typically take more than a year to complete. 

“Everything takes several trials. First you have to figure out what you need to do and work it out for trials in our own area, in our own labs, scale it up to production size and then its trials at the customer and you go through all the steps with the customer and then hopefully you get to the end and something works,” he said. “You can get to part way through that and then you need to go back and make adjustments, so all of those things take time.”

Once those new ingredients are developed, Old Dutch, Danone Foods Canada, and Big Mountain Foods will use them to “create new snack options and reformulated products, including yogurt, plant-based beverages and creamers, veggie links, cutlets, pastries, fillings and alternative non-soy/non-fava tofu products.”

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