By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As a sign of changing consumer diets a Minneapolis company is betting big on pea powder. PURIS is North American’s largest supplier of non-GMO pea protein for use in the food industry.

The protein is essential for the production of non-meat alternatives now available in restaurants and grocery stores.

“This isn’t your health food or diet food of the past. This is real food that tastes good,” explains PURIS CEO, Tyler Lorenzen.

Lorenzen says the $75-million investment from Cargill will help convert a Dawson, Minnesota dairy plant into a facility for pea processing. That will more than double the company’s capacity to keep up with soaring demand for pea powder.

“This is now a $4.5 billion market and experts predict that it will continue to grow to 85-billion by 2030,” added Lorenzen.

PURIS’s pea powder is the main ingredient in the meat alternative, Beyond Meats. That same company is supplying KFC’s new meatless chicken alternative which was introduced in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Rapid growth in the plant-based protein food segment is being fueled by a number of factors, including better health and environmental benefits.

“They come into our centers believing it’s a good idea for weight loss,” explains registered dietician, Terrie Jorgenson.

Jorgenson sees clients at Livea Weight Control Centers. She says peas are high in protein and lower in carbohydrates, making them a healthier choice. However, Jorgenson cautions consumers to make sure they’re getting all essential nutrients found in animal proteins.

“It’s a quick source of protein so actually they’re very surprised when they first try it. It’s a good substitute, texture-wise, I would say very close,” Jorgenson said.

In terms of market share, plant-based protein is still but a fraction of the sales of beef, chicken and pork products. While both foods tout their health or environmental benefits, it’s consumer’s palates and pocketbooks which will ultimately decide future demand.

Bill Hudson