MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Western Minnesota ag communities are hoping that a yellow field pea protein isolate will find great success in 2020 and in the years ahead.
Cargill and PURIS announced plans to invest in a previously closed Dawson AMPI dairy plant. Once used to make cheese products, the plant has been unused since 2014.
Cargill initially invested $25 million in a joint venture with PURIS to add capacity to a Turtle Lake, Wis., facility in 2018. PURIS also has a plant in Oskaloosa, Iowa. In August 2019, the companies announced an additional $75 million investment from Cargill.
Local citizens, leaders and farmers want to learn more about this new investor and potential buyer/employer in their region.
Recently, Tyler Lorenzen, CEO of PURIS Proteins, attended the Organic and Non-GMO Forum held on Oct. 29-30 at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Minneapolis. The event, put on by HighQuest Group, will meet again next year at this location.
Lorenzen’s parents, Jerry and Renee, started working on the PURIS business model shortly after Jerry graduated from college. An Iowa State Cyclone football star, Jerry began working with farmers in the mid-1980s to develop non-GMO and organic soybeans. Then in the mid-1990s, they worked on developing yellow field pea varieties that would grow in the southern production areas of the United States.
The family business then looked for ways to support yellow field pea farming production. PURIS sells their proprietary seed to farmers and buys back their production. They currently procure yellow field peas in 14 states.
“We’re putting a whole bunch of capital – and thanks to our partners at Cargill – into the facility in Dawson to revitalize it and grow more peas,” Lorenzen said. “So this is the system that we operate today, and I like to say it’s born and bred in the USA.”
PURIS is dedicated to cultivating “a spectrum of pure, plant-based foods and ingredients from U.S.-based organic and non-GMO sources,” according to its website.
“Our model is grounded in 30 years of non-GMO natural breeding and sustained by an alliance of domestic growers and partners who share our high standards,” the website continues.
They are also the exclusive producer of PURIS pea protein, starches, fibers and other non-GMO ingredients including soy, pulses, lentils and corn. PURIS formulates powders, mixes, energy bars and cereals in their food innovation lab.
In addition to field pea seed production success, PURIS has experienced success providing non-GMO and organic soybeans used for ingredients in energy bars, tofu and miso manufacturing, and specialty foods like natto and bean sprouts. They are involved with Beyond Meat ingredient sourcing as well.
The interest in plant-based diets is huge, explained Lorenzen. He noted that McDonald’s has announced they will pilot a PLT – plant, lettuce and tomato burger at restaurants in southwest Ontario. Subway has teamed up with Beyond Meat to offer a Beyond Meatball Marinara sandwich. Burger King’s Impossible Burger has also experienced good success.
The Impossible Burger uses GMO soy protein, while Beyond Meat uses non-GMO yellow field pea protein, he added.
“(Plant) categories of creamers, yogurts, cheese, ice cream, meat and milk – all outperforming on a dollar basis in growth vs. conventional foods,” he said. “I think this is just getting started.”
Lorenzen said that when you look at the plant-based food industry’s recent success, three things are happening. First, people are interested in getting healthy and they view plant-based foods as appropriate for weight loss, or maybe to reduce allergies.
Second, plant-based foods are tasting better. Food scientists have brought some of the more subtle aspects of a pleasurable food experience along – mouthfeel, food smells and taste are all improving.
Third, retail prices for plant-based foods are going down, so the average consumer can afford to buy them.
As a leader of PURIS, Lorenzen also believes in a plant-based diet. He stands with other athletes that promote or star in the movie, “The Game Changers.” This movie focuses on athletes that eat a plant-based diet for health, wellness, recovery and longevity benefits.
Lorenzen played quarterback at Eddyville-Blakesburg High School in Iowa, and for the Connecticut Huskies in college. He played as a tight end for the Jacksonville Jaguars and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2019 as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Going from quarterback to tight end, Lorenzen had to put on weight quickly – so he turned to high-caloric animal-derived foods. Later, he learned that it was also possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and put on muscle with plant-based protein. He eats a flexitarian diet – mostly plant-based foods with an occasional meal of fish. He asks everyone to watch the movie, “The Game Changers.”
“I think the future is going to be interesting… Twenty years from now, do I think meat’s gone? I don’t, but I do think plant-based meat and protein and all the different derivatives are going to be a big piece of it,” Lorenzen concluded.