Plant-based protein industry set to grow in Alberta with new Calgary facility

The plant-based meat alternative market is expected to be worth $140 billion by 2029 — and some producers say Calgary is the ideal place to set up shop.

“Everyone thinks beef when they think of Alberta, or oil and gas, but they don’t necessarily think yellow peas,” said Chris Shields, general manager at Lovingly Made Ingredients.

The plant based meat facility has been producing plant based ingredients at its flagship facility in the northeast since earlier this month.

The company is a subsidiary of  Meatless Farm, out of the U.K. 

The facility processes textured plant protein ingredients for things like burgers and sausages.

The Lovingly Made Ingredients facility in northeast Calgary produces plant-based protein from pulses and grains. (Submitted by LMI)

Agrifood experts say while Alberta’s reputation for beef is alive and well,  that doesn’t mean the province shouldn’t expand into plant-based production.

“Whenever we can add more processing in the province it’s a positive, right? It’s local … which is a big thing in consumers’ minds nowadays,” said Robert Semeniuk, the chair of Alberta Pulse Growers.

“It’s an interesting product that they’re going to be putting forward. I think it’s going to be nothing but positive for pulse production in Alberta, [and] just plant-based protein production in general.”

Semeniuk says the fewer export hurdles to deal with, the better, and the more product, the better.

“We don’t have tariffs to deal with … you don’t have shipping issues. You know, coastal, you don’t have ports to deal with,” said Semeniuk.

“You can have it right here.”

Semeniuk said the pulse industry is looking to innovate.

“Our vision is pulses on every farm, on every plate. We’re really trying to lead through innovation and collaboration to get more value for Alberta pulse farmers,” he said.

“So this really works, this Lovingly Made plant … whenever there’s an end use for our product, it’s a big help.”

Pulse production is a potentially lucrative crop with the growing demand for plant-based protein. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Sylvain Charlebois, an agrifood analyst with Dalhousie University, says it’s a sign of the times.

“More and more people are looking for different options for a variety of reasons. And I would say the top three are health, the environment and animal welfare,” he said. 

Charlebois says people are not necessarily moving away from animal proteins but they are looking for different options at the meat counter.

“During the last four months, the trifecta of meats, chicken, pork and beef, it remains popular, but we’re also seeing an increase in sales for specialty meats and, of course, plant based products as well.”

Charlebois says the industry has seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for plant-based products over last year.

“I think it’s a clear message about a shift in paradigm,” he said.

“I think it’s more about selling value to consumers. People may decide to eat steak one day, while on Tuesday, Wednesday they may opt for something else [like] chickpeas … which is great. And so I think the relationship that consumers will have with livestock is going to change for the better.”

Charlebois said the change will be good for both the livestock industry and the agriculture industry.

“You do have a lot of farmers out there farming, producing great vegetable proteins that we do export across across the world,” he said. 

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