First UK partnership with innovations company RootExtracts Ltd
The Branston team has dramatically improved its utilisation of the whole of the potato crop over the past few years – from creating value-added prepared products using outsize tubers and peeling the ‘wonky’ ones to utilising low grade material to generate electricity in its anaerobic digestion plant. The ongoing challenge is to get the best possible value from every part of the crop from the thousands of tonnes it deals with each year, ideally retaining it within the human food chain. And fitting perfectly with this drive to use the full harvested crop is the growing demand for UK-grown, clean-label and 100% plant-based ingredients amid soaring sales of vegetarian and vegan food.
Branston is preparing to launch a new £6m extraction facility - the first of its kind in the UK - at its Lincolnshire headquarters in partnership with RootExtracts Ltd, who have developed and refined the bespoke technology over the past few years. The new factory at the Branston site will convert secondary grade low-value potatoes into functional plant-based protein, as well as generating starch-based products for a range of manufacturing applications.
For MD James Truscott, it’s another important step in the company’s evolution and commitment to net zero carbon: “We’ve always been quick to adopt sustainable practices because we believe they work for the long-term. We were early adopters of anaerobic digestion technology, we’ve used solar energy for a long time and were the first food business in the UK to be Carbon Trust accredited, way back in 2008 - it’s in our DNA.
"Our challenge over many years has been how to convert as much of the crop as possible into as high a value as possible and create an efficient and sustainable supply chain. With this new process, we can gently extract the protein fraction (as well as a mixture of starch and fibre) from secondary grade potatoes and some of our processing by-products adding significant value to our operations.”
RootExtracts Ltd has been set up specifically to focus on developing and commercialising this technology, following on from the work pioneered by B-hive Innovations Ltd. The team began working on the most effective way to extract protein from potatoes in 2013, starting from a lab-based level and gradually scaling up to a commercially-viable operation.
The amount of protein in potatoes is low – typically only one or two per cent - but it is very high quality and nutritious, containing a full set of amino acids. Potato protein also has a high level of functionality which provides solutions that are fundamental to food manufacturers and can aid the recipe development process. For example, providing the same binding qualities as eggs.
James added: "Building a protein extraction plant makes sense to us as our next investment and fits with our long-term direction and our commitment to being net zero by 2030. We have plenty of the raw material needed for the process and RootExtracts have developed the technology to help us get every last drop of goodness out of it.
"The building is almost complete and we are finalising the design of the internal equipment. It is next to our fresh and prepared factory which means there is an abundance of raw material on hand and we’re not spending money, time - or carbon - shipping it around the country. If you can generate a plant-based protein with good functionality that can be fully traceable and UK sourced and created, then you have got a very interesting product - we are extremely confident about its future success.”