Suiker Unie to produce protein from plant leaves
Suiker Unie officially took its Green Protein Demo Plant into operation on 10 October and started producing protein from sugar beet foliage. The production process is a unique, pioneering method that Suiker Unie can use under an exclusive license. The first 100 kg of protein will be produced this year.
Plant protein sources will be essential to produce enough proteins to feed the growing world population in the future. With the demo plant, Suiker Unie has taken an important step to contribute to this protein transition.
Green plant leaves contain between 1% and 3% protein. A new process developed and patented by TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, makes it possible to extract the protein. Royal Cosun, Suiker Unie’s parent company, has obtained the exclusive licence to use the patent.
The Green Protein Demo Plant will extract protein from sugar beet foliage, and later also from other plant leaves. Every hectare of sugar beet produces between 20 and 30 tonnes of leaves. This amount of foliage is good for between 180 and 280 kg of high quality protein. “A dark green juice is extracted from the leaves that we can refine and dry in a series of steps to produce a colourless, flavourless and odourless protein powder,” explains Paulus Kosters, Senior Protein Programme Manager at Cosun. “The food industry can use this functional plant protein in countless applications, including meat substitutes, cakes, meringues, beverages, sauces and desserts. Our ambition now that the demo plant is up and running is to take the first large-scale production line into operation by 2022.”
The Green Protein Demo Plant is part of a strategic programme launched by Cosun to produce plant proteins. “We want to be a pioneer in this field,” says Frank van Noord, Innovation Director. “We have always worked to get the maximum value out of our crops. Our open innovation centre for alternative proteins, which Cosun has opened at Nieuw Prinsenland in Dinteloord, is a perfect example of this and we are inviting other parties to join us in the protein transition.”