Faba bean protein to revolutionise global market for plant-based diets

There is a great demand for proteins all over the world, and several positive benefits of faba (or fava) beans make this particular type of protein far more attractive when it comes to health and sustainability, according to Meelunie GPI A/S. The company is building a factory for extracting plant protein from faba beans in Hedensted, Denmark. A broad partnership consisting of SiccaDania, the Dutch Meelunie B.V, Copenhagen University, the Danish Green Investment Fund (Danmarks Grønne Investeringsfond) and Ringkjøbing Landbobank supports the project.

Alternative protein for the food industry will become a key ingredient in future food. Danish Meelunie GPI is showing the way with a new type of plant protein extracted from faba beans. The company’s vision is grand: Faba bean protein will become a central source of energy in the food of the future. This little bean can function both as a substitute for meat but also as a substitute for several other plant protein sources which have already made their way into the market. This also includes soya protein which is an important ingredient in plant-based milk and meat alternatives. In contrast to soya protein, faba bean protein has several positive benefits:

“Faba beans are first and foremost more nutritious. In addition, the faba bean is significantly better to grow for the environment and does not need to be grown on the other side of the globe, where transport in turn has a negative effect on the climate. At Meelunie-GPI, we want to revolutionise the current way of thinking plant proteins, and here the faba bean plays a major role,” says Lars Laursen, managing director at Meelunie GPI.

Several investors are backing the project. The process is developed based on patented research done by the University of Copenhagen and BiOptimate, and the Dutch ingredients trader Meelunie B.V. will handle marketing and sales of the final protein product. The Danish process technology provider SiccaDania will deliver the technology and process knowledge as well as the construction of the plant, while the Danish Green Investment Fund and Ringkjøbing Landbobank will provide funding for the project. Finally, the faba beans will be delivered by Hornsyld Købmandsgaard A/S.

“At SiccaDania, we have worked intensively to develop this project over the past few years. It is therefore with great satisfaction that we can now start the construction of the factory, which will produce proteins, starch and food fibres from faba beans. This project holds great prospects for the stakeholders involved. The project will also make a significant contribution towards putting Denmark on the world map for the development and sustainable production of alternative proteins. If the total amount of protein from the new factory is used as a meat substitute for beef, the total annual CO2 emission will be reduced by approx. 400,000 tons. It is so significant that it can be seen on the country’s CO2 bottom line,” says CEO of SiccaDania, Søren Sten Rasmussen.

Capital to mature the technology

The world is facing major challenges with food scarcity. At the same time, the foods must be produced in accordance with the planet’s resources. We must also develop commercially viable alternatives to meat protein, which we know affects the climate significantly more negatively than plant-based alternatives, says Michael Zöllner, managing director of the Danish Green Investment Fund (Danmarks Grønne Investeringsfond). He says: “As the population increases around the world, there is a crucial need to develop new ways of producing protein enabling us to feed everyone and at the same time reduce our negative impact on the climate. In the Danish Green Investment Fund, we will be a part of developing new technologies that contribute positively to the climate and the nature. Here, plant protein has several important properties that help to create better conditions both for the climate and the nature. That is why we are pleased to help finance the further development of Meelunie GPI.”

There is a great deal to gain both commercially and in regard to sustainability which is also why Ringkjøbing Landbobank will finance the project: “SiccaDania and Meelunie GPI have developed an exciting concept for protein extraction of foods, which in contrast to other alternatives, will be produced in our own backyard. The project supports Denmark’s continued development towards being a front runner for sustainability and protein extraction. We are happy to participate as a financial investor together with our long-term collaborator the Danish Green Investment Fund, and we hope that Meelunie GPI can become a Danish business success” says credit manager Dan Junker Astrup.

With an increasing demand for plant-based food, Meelunie GPI is looking into a billion-dollar market when the technology and the product have matured further, says Lars Laursen: “Plant proteins will become the main ingredient in future foods – both for the sake of the climate, but also because the consumers demand plant-based diets. That is why we also believe that we can play a major role in this sector globally.”

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