A new report from PwC New Zealand has found that a sizeable opportunity in plant-based protein exists for investors and New Zealand’s agri-food and ingredients sectors, so long as the country invests in the infrastructure required to process locally-grown pea and fava beans onshore. 

The report, entitled “Feasibility of Pea and Fava Bean Protein Extraction in New Zealand”, was commissioned by Off-Piste Provisions, a Kiwi plant-based meat company, and funded by the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries and the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR). The report provides the agri-food and ingredients sectors with greater clarity around the logistics, costs, barriers and opportunities for growing and processing of plant protein crops, as well as examines their potential as an alternative export opportunity.

Off-Piste Provisions’ Founder Jade Gray explained that as the global plant-based protein market continues its strong growth, New Zealand should ensure it does not miss its chance to capitalise on the economic opportunity. “There are strong market signals that an increase in the global production of pea and fava bean protein is on the horizon,” Gray noted. “By necessity, Off-Piste Provisions currently imports its plant protein, but a high quality, New Zealand-grown and processed product would be our preference.”

Gray proposed that a public-private funding model, similar to that seen with the recently announced new infrastructure project by Australian Plant Proteins in South Australia – in which both State and Federal governments funded a portion of the builds while a private consortium funded the rest – would be an ideal scenario for the construction of a New Zealand processing facility. 

Beyond the construction of local processing infrastructure, Gray also suggests that research and development into crop optimisations and value-adding plant proteins will further New Zealand’s opportunities in the plant-based market. “New Zealand’s primary producers have long been able to charge a premium in global markets for the clean, green reputation we enjoy, but it’s more difficult to trade off that reputation when it comes to ingredients,” he said, suggesting that  breeding crops optimised exclusively for extrusion (the key production process used in manufacturing plant-based meats) would offer a significant value add. 

According to Ivan Lawrie, General Manager Business Operations at FAR, Kiwi farmers already have a serious interest in being involved beyond the farm gate and participating in the value chain of plant protein-based products, saying: “Providing profitable and sustainable crop options for New Zealand arable farms is key to maintaining diversity in our cropping systems. In particular, pulses such as peas and beans play an important role in a healthy rotation.”

Gray concluded that the report represents a significant step forward in answering the question as to whether or not New Zealand has an opportunity to compete in the rapidly growing global alternative meat sector. “It is my hope that the arable crop growers will use the important findings as a springboard to engage with other stakeholders in driving forward this exciting value-add opportunity for the sector.”

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