The acquisition of Sojaprotein—the largest producer of plant-based protein in southern Europe—adds production capacity in addition to a network of customers who are leading the way in meeting consumer needs for nutritious and responsible plant-based foods and beverages. The deal builds on ADM’s recent investments in alternative proteins including the company’s soy protein complex in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil; its new pea protein plant in Enderlin, North Dakota; its PlantPlus Foods joint venture; and partnerships with innovative startups like Air Protein.
Established in 1977, Serbia-based Sojaprotein has sales into 65 countries, offering a portfolio of non-GMO vegetable protein ingredients for an extensive list of European and global customers in the meat alternative, confectionary, protein bar, pharmaceutical, pet food and animal feed segments. The company had more than $100 million in sales in 2020.
“Thirty years ago, ADM invented the soy vegetable burger, giving rise to the plant-based protein segment. Today, alternative proteins represent one of our core growth platforms, and as this $10 billion global industry grows to $30 billion over the next decade, we are investing to expand our unparalleled capabilities,” said Leticia Gonçalves, ADM’s president of Global Foods. “We’re particularly excited for the opportunity to work together to meet the fast-growing demand of European consumers who prioritize locally-sourced, non-GMO ingredients in their food and beverages.”
“This agreement testifies to the sustainable business models that MK Group is implementing, as an investment company with a diversified portfolio of value-added industries in Southeastern Europe. This is yet another confirmation of the proven track record of our management, as well as the global recognition of the world-class quality of our non-GMO soybean products,” said Aleksandar Kostić, vice president of MK Group, the majority owner of Sojaprotein.
Food & Beverage Insider Insights
Plant-based eating has been around since the dawn of time. However, plant-based eating is a red-hot category driven by consumer demand for delicious products that are minimally processed, made from clean label ingredients, and align with their values related to health and wellness, sustainability and econ-consciousness.
Today’s consumer base for plant nutrition is growing rapidly, encompassing vegetarians, vegans and those consumers who identify as flexitarians. Brans are recognizing this shift and expanding their plant-based portfolios. According to recent Innova Market Insights’ data, the use of plant-based claims for global food and beverage launches had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% from 2016 to 2020. Products specifically marketed as “vegan” saw only a 10% CAGR over the same period despite the two positionings’ clear overlap. Research also indicated 6 in 10 consumers prefer plant-based claims when buying alternatives to meat and/or dairy.
As noted by Euromonitor’s Tom Rees in Food & Beverage Insider’s “Power to the plants: Capitalizing on the plant-based momentum” digital magazine, sales of plant-based alternatives to animal-derived foods were growing strongly worldwide pre-pandemic, with meat substitutes, milk alternatives and dairy-free yogurt generating sales of US$36 billion in 2019. In 2020, sales growth accelerated sharply.
While the overall positive impact of the pandemic on food retail played a role, several other factors particularly benefited plant-based alternatives. Consumers increased focus on health from food; they looked for novelty in eating and cooking choices; longer-life goods were favored; and plant-based meat avoided potential association with the virus “transferring” to humans (reinforced by news of cases at meat-processing facilities across the globe). To take meat substitutes as an example, growth accelerated from 4% for 2018-2019 to 9% for 2019-2020.
Key motivations for purchasing plant-based foods during the pandemic included health profile, sustainability claims and animal welfare concerns. Greater scrutiny of claims is likely in the future, especially as substitutes increase in viability as challengers to animal-based food’s hegemony.
On Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 1-3 p.m., the session “Plant-based gets mainstream” takes place live at SupplySide West. In addition to insights into consumer attitudes toward plant-based eating, expert speakers will cover novel formats and ingredients in the plant-based space, and future opportunities. The session is underwritten by Cargill and produced with Food ingredients North America (FiNA).