ICL Food Specialties and Protera Biosciences partner on AI-discovered plant-based ingredients


Dive Brief:

  • Ingredients maker ICL Food Specialties is joining forces with artificial intelligence-driven food tech company Protera Biosciences to develop new protein ingredients for food manufacturers. This follows a $1 million investment in Protera through ICL’s Planet Startup Hub last year.
  • Protera uses its proprietary Madi platform to discover proteins with specific functionalities in all kinds of conditions. The proteins are then produced by precision fermentation.
  • As manufacturers are looking for clean label ingredient options, companies using technology including AI and precision fermentation are working on developing solutions. These companies look for actual proteins that can perform the same functions as common lab-developed ingredients, such as methylcellulose.

Dive Insight:

The collaboration of ICL Food Specialties and Protera Biosciences is one that could both pave the way for many advancements in new protein ingredients, and their adoption throughout the world. ICL Food Specialties is the ingredients-specific arm of global specialty minerals giant ICL Group: a company with deep pockets, manufacturing and distribution expertise, a commitment to sustainability and a worldwide presence.

ICL has ingredients in its portfolio to provide texture, consistency and stability to plant-based meat and dairy applications. But there is a widespread need for other types of ingredients to be used throughout the food space. Nearly two out of three consumers say ingredients have at least a moderate influence on their food and beverage purchases, according to research last year from the International Food Information Council. And almost two-thirds said they try to choose food made from clean ingredients, which the highest percentage defined as “not artificial or synthetic.”

Hadar Sutovsky, vice president of external innovation for ICL and general manager of ICL Planet, said in a statement that the collaboration can bring new ingredients to the market that aren’t found anywhere else. 

“Once these functional ingredients are launched, food manufacturers will be able to speed up development of clean-label and sustainable plant-based products,” Sutovsky said in the release.

The ingredients that could be replaced through this collaboration aren’t just in plant-based products. Processed foods of all kinds contain ingredients obtained through chemistry for emulsification, colors, flavors and extended shelf life. While everything that is contained in food and beverages is approved for safety by the FDA, chemical-sounding names on ingredient labels tend to turn consumers off.

Protera already has introduced a protein-based ingredient targeting the wider food sector: Protera Guard, which was designed to inhibit mold growth in baked goods.

Protera’s $10 million Series A round — which ICL participated in — closed last July. Protera told Food Navigator that the funds would be used to scale Protera Guard, with an expected U.S. and Latin American launch in 2023, and European launch in 2025. Bimbo Group, the world’s largest baked goods producer, also participated in Protera’s Series A.

While there haven’t been any announcements of new ingredients through the collaboration with ICL, Protera founder and CEO Leonardo Alvarez said in the release that the companies are “validating functional targets in the lab, with unprecedented speed and accuracy.”

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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