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It’s all about the PROTEIN

–by Harold Stanislawski

Protein. It’s a hot trend. But is it just a fad that marketers are using to drive sales? Facts show that there’s more to it than that—protein increases energy levels, helps with muscle maintenance and weight management, curbs cravings for carbs and generally promotes a healthy diet. This information was just part of a vast amount of information on protein shared at the Bridge2Food Protein Course.

The good news for Minnesota farmers, businesses and consumers is that our state produces many of the world’s protein resources, including soybeans, peas, canola, wheat, eggs, dairy and much more. And all of these vegetable proteins—as well as the animal proteins provided by poultry, beef cattle and pork—have a role in feeding a world growing population. In fact, by 2050, we’re going to need 50 percent more protein than what’s produced today, and we have to produce that protein on only about 4 percent more land.

One of the fastest growing commodities used for protein is peas. Pea protein usage is up 261 percent since 2010. Why the surge? Pea protein meets a lot of current consumer demands—including that it is gluten free and non-allergenic. Other emerging proteins include algae protein and protein from insects, which can be turned into protein flour.
These have just begun to enter the market.

What does all of this mean for Minnesota farmers and businesses? For Minnesota farmers, this increased demand for protein means increased need for their commodities—especially whey protein from dairy products and soybean protein—two key Minnesota commodities that also have high amounts of protein. These two proteins are so functional and affordable they will continue to be pillars in the protein world.

The demand also poses opportunities for Minnesota businesses and entrepreneurs who find ways to deliver this protein in ways that meet consumers’ desires for good taste and ready-to-eat, portable snacks. In fact, 12-15 percent of new product introductions have a soybean-based protein in it. Some new high-protein products include ready-made meals, soups and sandwiches, baking mixes and ice cream.

Here are just a few of the ways AURI is helping Minnesota commodity groups and businesses meet the growing demand for food:

  • Hands-on scientific assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs who are trying to offer more protein in food products;
  • The identification of commercialization opportunities for Minnesota farmers and businesses; and
  • Research into fortifying proteins in animal feeds and other crops.

Our goal is to work with entrepreneurs, farmers and businesses to find ways to be a part of a solution to this global need for protein while at the same time creating economic growth for our state.