With plant-based demand increasing at an exponential rate, but global production struggling to keep pace, vegconomist decided to have a chat with Dave Reynolds of the Protein Solutions and Ingredients Division of Bühler, Inc.
For those interested in seeing the Bühler facility and latest production machinery, here is a link to the company’s October 19 and 20 open house.
Where do you see the market going?
This market is driven by sustainability and great tasting products. When it comes to alternative protein products on the market today, there is lots of room for improvement. With the accelerated growth in consumer demand for sustainable proteins and needing to feed 10 billion people by 2050, the technology used now will be scaled up further and pushed to much higher capacities to meet the production needs and drive down the price per pound. Whether through extrusion, fermentation, or a variety of new technologies, further integration of ingredients, fats, oils and hybrid products will be expanded, and products will continue to improve.
As a solution supplier to the industry and process partner in many of the products being developed, we will see new technologies or variations of existing technologies introduced to the market. The processes will be modified to provide more unique ingredients and product characteristics which will also help decrease energy and water usage as well as reduce waste in the supply chain.
How do you see Bühler playing a part in getting there?
There are so many directions this industry is moving and so many products being developed that as a solution provider it sometimes feels like musical chairs. While Bühler itself has invested heavily in an integrated solution for taking raw materials through to finished protein products, collaboration with customers, partners and other experts has been key to the customer success we have seen.
We often discuss closing the protein gap by building a bridge over the ‘valley of death’ for the start-ups, investors and even large multinational companies looking to scale up or develop new products. Typically, our role is to provide equipment to manufacture that product and fine-tune recipes utilizing our experience.
Occasionally, it is taking solutions designed for a specific process and using them for another application. But very often, our role is to open up our network and help the customer gain accessibility to higher volumes of a new novel ingredient or building (or finding) production facilities to launch products that have capacity to manufacture any considerable volume.
Bühler has the pilot plant capabilities, but the excitement in building this bridge and closing the protein gap is that if you look at the companies and industry experts as well as universities that are now actively engaged, we are starting to collaborate to accelerate these ideas from inception and feasibility on the lab scale all the way through to high-capacity production. Essentially coming together to give the industry more than just R&D, but saleable finished goods and products that can disrupt the traditional food supply chain, and in turn, have more sustainable products and processes.
For the extrusion processing side, we have seen an accelerated innovation timeline to increase production capacities utilizing the same production line by improving the technology of our cooling die (from PolyCool50 to PolyCool500 to PolyCool1000). We will see a similar speed to market for other hybrid products and cultured products over the next few years and Buhler will be a collaborator.
What kind of environmental impact does Bühler hope to have?
As a family-owned company, with a 160-year history and focus on sustainability, Bühler understands the need to provide more access to sustainable protein and the impact our existing food supply will have on the future of the planet. Buhler’s mission is to realize a 50% reduction of energy, waste, and water in our customers’ value chains by 2025. This is a very audacious target that will take a lot of collaboration, but we are committed to making progress in single equipment and process improvement. And every time we start up a new production line, it provides more consumer access to sustainable protein products.
How would Bühler like to be known in the industry?
We would like to be seen as a partner in solving the critical challenges the world faces today. From finding ways to sustainably feed the world, to helping define new ways to move about it. Bühler is a leader in innovation. Our business decisions consider the impact on nature, humanity and economy. What that means for the food industry, specifically for the alternative proteins value chain, is that we can provide process solutions to our customers that are mindful of the planet’s boundaries, will produce food safely, and make good business sense. Buhler can be a process partner for the entire value chain.
“Bühler is a leader in innovation. Our business decisions consider the impact on nature, humanity and economy”
What is the Bühler secret sauce for helping successful plant-based businesses?
Bühler has a diverse portfolio of equipment, and we work on many different products and processes. A lot of experience and knowledgeable resources are required to make it happen. Bühler wants to be a trusted long-term partner that is aligned with our customers’ immediate equipment needs, future growth strategies and product development/scale-up requirements. With the protein market moving as quickly as it is, the partnership we form with the customer is critical. Without the trust of all parties, it doesn’t work.
With our Pilot Facilities, engineering and innovation teams and partners around the globe, we are confident that our process experience with various products, Bühler’s financial strength and continuous innovation in equipment design have resulted in recommendations that best suit the future process and operating requirements. And in cases where we may not be the right fit, we can connect you with others in the industry.
“Only together we can create solutions to feed the growing world’s population with delicious, nutritious, and sustainable foods.”
In this age of accelerated innovations when new ingredients, technologies and consumer demands are changing at record speed, the only way to successfully move into the future is to collaborate. Bühler continues to create partnerships across the globe with Universities, Research institutes and industry partners along the value chain. Only together we can create solutions to feed the growing world’s population with delicious, nutritious, and sustainable foods.
What are the developments in Bühler right now that are the most exciting?
Capacity is a big deal right now in the manufacturing world! We are excited about the launch of the PolyCool1000 this summer and the increases this brings to the output at over 1,000 kg/hr per production line, which would translate to ~6,000 chicken breasts per hour. We have already started PolyCool1000 trials in our pilot plants in Minneapolis and Switzerland and will be hosting an Open House at our Minneapolis Food Application Center on Oct 19 & 20 for those interested in observing it operate in person.
In addition to the PolyCool1000, we will also have pulse processing and specialty milling equipment demonstrations. Registration is required for the event available at this link.
With sustainable proteins here to stay, there are a lot of new technologies and processes that are being developed to keep up with industry demand. Our innovation group is working on some other areas that go beyond our traditional supply.
In fact, Bühler, Givaudan and Migros just announced a new facility for cellular agriculture products called The Cultured Food Innovation Hub that will be established in Switzerland. When this pilot plant opens in 2022, it will accelerate the development of cell-cultured meat, fish and seafood, and precision fermentation products. Very exciting times!