Under the material transfer agreements (MTAs), Canadian R&D company Burcon and agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland will provide samples of Puratein and Supertein to food and beverage companies for testing potential uses in prepared foods, nutritional supplements and personal care products.
"We see blockbuster potential for this protein," Sven Olsson, spokesperson for Burcon's European investor relations partner Axino, told NutraIngredients-USA.com, "Because as the applications grow, so will the market."
Developing the products has been underway since 1990 and the current MTAs suggest Puratein and Supertein are inching closer to shaking up the protein market, where they may compete with existing soy, dairy, and egg ingredients.
The names of partnering companies are not being disclosed, but they are "major food and beverage companies" according to Burcon. These companies will likely get back to Burcon and ADM with their results within a couple of months. "They are very confident that they have a good use for it," said Olsson of Burcon and ADM.
The two companies are poised to make a dent in the market with Puratein and Supertein, which have similar characteristics to egg yolks and egg-whites respectively yet are plant-based. Thus they will be strong competitors for animal-based proteins said Olsson.
"Canola protein is the number one candidate to replace animal-based proteins such as eggs," said Olsson.
The high protein efficiency ratio for canola is more than double that of soy, according to Burcon. This ratio measures a growing animal's total weight gain versus the weight of protein consumed during the same period.
Despite its strengths, Canola protein is still only at the stage where it can dream of achieving a similar market position to the main plant-based protein, soy. The US soy protein industry was worth $2.5 billion in 2006, according to market analyst Soyatech.
Canola is the second-largest oilseed crop in the world after soybeans. The oilseed not only has a high level of protein purity, without prohibitive fat levels, but it also has an amino acid content comparable to animal proteins and superior to that of soy proteins.
Burcon and ADM are not trying to play Canola protein against soy though, said Olsson. Instead the companies see Puratein and Supertein, which have emulsifying or whipping applications among others, as complimentary to water-binding soy protein applications.
But with over six years of research and development and at a price of $20mn, Burcon and ADM have high hopes for their investment.
"It is going to be a huge developing market," said Olsson, "We are going to see that over the next one or one and a half years as ADM checks off more milestones."
The Puratein and Supertein saga shifted gears in 1999 when Burcon bought the technology from BMW Canola. Olsson cited research and development issues and negotiations as the stumbling blocks. "We are dealing with major companies and intellectual property."
Burcon initially signed a partnership with ADM in 2003 to bring the proteins to market and work on ways to make them more appealing to food manufacturers, by improving flavour and colour.
Both proteins are suitable for functional use in protein bars and beverages. Supertein is comparable to egg white and boasts very high solubility in neutral and acidic environments. It can be used in products like cookies and muffins, donuts and meringues, but is especially ideal for the beverage industry, said Olsson.
Puratein has characteristics comparable to egg yolk. It has the ability to emulsify and uses could include vegetable burgers, battered fried goods, mayonnaise, glazes and gels.