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Burger King Impossible Burger Mindy Ward
PLANT PROTEIN MARKET GROWS: Burger King test-marketed the Impossible Burger, made with plant-based protein. Other companies are expanding plant-based protein production facilities.

Plant-based protein products step up game

Hi-Tech Farming: Competition for the consumer’s palate is growing.

The idea of a world without livestock may seem ludicrous to some people. However, the fact that certain consumers prefer vegetarian diets is reality. What’s changing is the quality and variety of choices companies offer those consumers. It’s a trend worth monitoring.

Mindy Ward, editor of Missouri Ruralist, also a Farm Progress publication, took her husband along to check out the new protein-based hamburger-substitute sandwich select Burger King stores offered in her vicinity during a test marketing project. To her surprise, the meat-substitute burger not only looked like the real thing, but also passed her taste test. Her husband still preferred real hamburger, but he too was surprised by the quality of the plant-based burger. Her conclusion? The beef industry must pay attention and be creative — competition from plant-based substitutes is real.

On the heels of her visit to her local Burger King comes word that Greenleaf Foods SPC, a subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., based in Canada, will build a 230,000-square-foot production facility near Shelbyville, Ind. Company officials say the $310 million investment will more than double the company’s production capacity for plant-based protein foods.

Surging consumer demand drove the decision. Various governmental entities within Indiana offered incentives to draw the plant. The company’s portfolio includes Lightlife Foods and Field Roast Grain Meat Co., the No. 1 and No. 2 brands in refrigerated alternative proteins. Lightlife offers a plant-based burger.

Ultrafiltered milk expands

Meanwhile, Fairlife LLC will build a 300,000-square-foot production facility in Goodyear, Ariz., near Phoenix. Founded in 2012 by Mike and Sue McCloskey of Select Milk Producers Inc., Fairlife’s products struck a chord with consumers, too. Fairlife’s ultrafiltered milk contains 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular cow’s milk and is lactose-free.

There’s a Midwest connection. The McCloskeys founded Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana some 20 years ago. The huge, innovative dairy operation has spawned agritourism destinations, gas stations selling propane generated from manure and plant nutrition products made with manure ingredients.

Fairlife LLC has a growing stable of products, and works in partnership with Coca-Cola to distribute them throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some of their products were spotted in Aldi stores, a chain that primarily sells products branded just for its stores.   

Names matter

Speaking of names and branding, Kubota Tractor Corp. made another key move as it strives to offer full-service equipment across product lines. Vicon hay tool equipment and pendulum spreaders will now carry the Kubota name. The lines will also be distributed and serviced by Kubota dealers across the U.S.

Kubota Corp. acquired Kverneland Group, Vicon’s parent company, in 2013. Until now, however, tools carried the Vicon name. If you have Vicon products, locate your nearest Kubota dealer through kubotausa.com/find-a-dealer.

More plant breeding news

Hi-Tech Farming recently reported that Syngenta has discovered a genome-editing tool called haploid induction editing, to be known as Hi-Edit. Corteva Agriscience, the ag division of DowDuPont, has announced a nonexclusive research and commercial license agreement with the Broad Institute and Amfora, a biotech company. The agreement allows Amfora to use CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene-editing tools to develop gene-edited crops with increased protein content.

What’s behind this agreement? The same trend leading Greenleaf Foods to expand in Indiana: increased demand for plant-based proteins.

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