Southern Alberta plant turns yellow pea “waste” into valuable protein product

(Shaun Haney/RealAgriculture)

Where once stood a brewery that turned barley into beer in Lethbridge, Alta., now stands a plant that turns peas into protein.

The plant — PIP-International — has shifted its focus to the plant proteins sector of agriculture as it continues to grow.

Christine Lewington, chief executive officer of PIP-International, joined RealAg Radio Host Shaun Haney to discuss the goals of the plant.

As Lewington explains, PIP supplies its pea protein as an ingredient to other food companies, which is targeting the growing alternative dairy market, rather than the alternative meat market.

“Our focus is alternative dairy — ice cream and yogurts, and fortifying plant-based milks right now that don’t have a very high nutritional quality. We have a vegan fudge that’s to die for. And we have our lovely ice cream,” she explains.

What makes the company unique, says Lewington, is that most other companies take the starches and fibres out of yellow peas, while leaving behind the proteins. The process PIP uses allows them to extract the proteins, while leaving behind the starches and fibres. (Story continues below conversation)

“Our waste is the starch and fibre. So we kind of turned it on its head. And by doing that, we actually can really take care of that protein. It doesn’t get beat up and heated and go through a lot of pipes, turns, and twists that it doesn’t need to, because the proteins are very much divas. They don’t like to be damaged,” Lewington says.

Clean labels with fewer ingredients are in growing demand, which is where Lewington sees PIP’s protein really thriving in the market — with a tasteless protein that takes on the taste of whatever flavour the food scientist is going for.

Currently, the company is buying yellow peas, as the supply of yellow peas grown in the Lethbridge area is high. The company hopes to run fully on renewable energy by next year.

“We use a lot less water, we are harvesting green energy — by next June, we’ll use 100 per cent green energy to heat and power the process. We also don’t have some of those really stringent chemicals, enzymes, and deformers that everybody else has. So it just allows our protein to be that much more close to natural state when it comes out.”

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