San Diego-based Plantible Foods and ICL Food Specialties have embarked on a collaborative journey to address the growing demand for clean-label ingredients within the meat alternative sector. The partnership revolves around the creation and marketing of a clean-label alternative to methylcellulose, a chemically modified binder prevalent in meat substitute products.
Central to this collaboration is the utilization of RuBisCO protein, sourced from lemna, commonly known as duckweed. The significance of RuBisCO extends beyond its ability to replace methylcellulose and eggs in plant-based meats and seafood. It represents a shift towards leveraging more sustainable and nutrient-dense resources in food production.
In fact, in the current landscape of meat alternatives, methylcellulose has been a staple ingredient owing to its ability to hold plant-based meat products together as they cook, enhancing their succulence and juiciness. However, the chemical modification of cellulose has raised eyebrows among health-conscious consumers and led to lawsuits challenging the ‘natural’ credentials of some products. This is where the genius of the ICL and Plantible initiative comes into play.
ICL recently accentuated its commitment towards this collaborative venture through its innovation platform, ICL Planet Startup Hub, by investing in Plantible Foods. The investment signifies a broader objective of exploring and expanding the potential of Plantible’s products across various food categories. This joint venture is envisioned to accelerate food applications development, with Plantible gaining access to ICL’s team of seasoned food scientists.
Hadar Sutovsky, Vice President of External Innovation and General Manager of ICL Planet, expressed optimism regarding the partnership with Plantible Foods. He highlighted the alignment of this collaboration with ICL's ongoing endeavors in the alternative protein domain, underlined by the launch of a new alternative protein facility in the U.S.
According to a report by Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corporation, the global alternative protein market is anticipated to reach a valuation of at least $290 billion by 2035. This projection underscores the timely nature of ICL’s investment in Plantible Foods, marking it as the second investment facilitated through ICL Planet Startup Hub. Previously, ICL Planet invested in Protera, a startup focused on designing and developing new proteins, emphasizing the platform’s thematic focus on clean-label functional food ingredients.
Rado Sporka, Vice President of the Food Specialties Commercial Business for ICL, outlined the key growth drivers of the alternative protein market: the adoption of healthier lifestyles, shifting consumer perceptions, and advancements in sustainable production capabilities. He reiterated that the partnership with Plantible Foods aligns with ICL’s strategy of "Impacting Better Food," aiming to accelerate the market introduction of innovative protein technology.
Set for a US launch in 2024, the binding solution, named ‘ROVITARIS Binding Solution powered by Rubi Protein,’ is expected to challenge the status quo of ingredients used in plant-based meat products, potentially rendering methylcellulose obsolete. The collaborative endeavor between ICL and Plantible Foods thus stands as a testament to the evolving dynamics within the alternative protein market, encapsulating the broader industry’s gradual shift towards embracing cleaner and more sustainable food ingredient solutions.