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Collapse of plant protein manufacturer a concern – contribution from Food Frontier

Manufacturing News

Australian Plant Proteins’ voluntary administration highlights the lack of forward thinking by government, says Food Frontier CEO Dr Simon Eassom.

In a regional area where employment and value-added industries are essential, it’s disappointing that a significant manufacturing plant has announced its potential closure after eight years of operations.

Horsham based Australian Plant Proteins (APP) went into voluntary administration at the end of June.

The largest of three commercial-scale plant-protein fractionation facilities in Australia, APP is the only manufacturer of high quality Australian grown faba bean and pulse protein isolates, supplying local and international food manufacturers.

Plant protein ingredients provide versatile food ingredients for a range of products such as breakfast cereals, breads, bakery goods, snack foods, and sports nutrition products.

Protein concentrates (40%-79% protein) and isolates (>80% protein) derived from pulses and grains are essential for future food security and meeting the needs of a growing global population.

CEO of alternative protein think tank Food Frontier Dr Simon Eassom said this development should not be seen as a failure of an individual company.

He said: “This is a warning that building a long-term sustainable industry takes time, ongoing investment, and commitment from government.

“This is especially important in regional areas where employment and valued added industries are needed.

“If we contrast Australia with a world leader in this sector, the government sponsored Protein Industries Canada has co-invested $190m in the time since APP was founded in 2016 and is strategically assembling and supercharging Canada’s domestic plant protein industry to reach $27.5b by 2035.

“Sadly, the potential closure of Australian Plant Proteins pushes Australia further behind countries such as Canada and China and resigns Australian manufacturers to relying on the importation of soybean concentrates and protein ingredients, often of variable quality and suitability.”

Plant-based protein production is a sustainable industry that benefits consumers, farmers, and the environment.

And it is essential to meet the increased demand for high quality protein concentrates and isolates required to provide nutritional fortification to a wide range of food products.

Dr Eassom said: “Australia is a major producer of pulses crops, the world’s largest grower of lupins, for example. These crops are currently sold on the international commodity markets, often as feedstock for the animal farming industry in Asia.

“If processing facilities aren’t supported, Australia will miss an enormous opportunity to enhance its domestic supply of high-quality protein ingredients for the food manufacturing sector.

“It will prevent significant and necessary R&D into utilising these products to feed large sectors of the community, such as those in aged care facilities, who need food manufactured from high quality, digestible protein at affordable prices.”

Continuing a 14-year decline, ABS data shows Australia’s national spending in R&D dropped again in 2023, jeopardising our opportunity to be a global early mover in food development and alternative proteins.

Dr Eassom said: “This, combined with a lack of manufacturing capabilities such as that provided by APP puts Australia at risk of entrenching our reliance on imports rather than leading as a major exporter of innovative food products. We hope that APP finds a buyer before it’s too late but, really, the support needs to come from government.”

Further reading:
Australian Plant Proteins produces bean protein

Dr Simon Eassom is CEO of Food Frontier, an independent think tank on alternative proteins, which has a mission to grow our region’s protein supply with new, sustainable and nutritious options.

Image: Food Froniter/products and food ingredients produced using Australian Plant Proteins products

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