Nicole Astra: Talking Plant Protein brings you the stories of the people who are changing the world by changing what we eat. Representing Roquette an innovation leader in this industry for over 40 years, please welcome Jeremy Burks to the show, Vice President of Plant Proteins. Welcome Jeremy.
Jeremy Burks: Thanks. Thank Nicole.
Nicole Astra: Jeremy, we're here today to talk about Roquette's plant protein center of expertise. A statement in a recent press release said it's going to expand the field of possibilities. Tell me more.
Jeremy Burks: Yeah. So the new center is another way for us to explore all these different possibilities that exist in proteins. Proteins are a very special kind of material. Very delicate, very intricate, very sophisticated. And what the center allows us to do is to play a little bit with... We gently extract them from the materials they come from. And as you do that you can play a little bit with the proteins and see what other effects that you can get.
Nicole Astra: So one of the goals has been to introduce new proteins every five years through this center. That's quite a goal, Jeremy. Can you anticipate any announcements foreshadowing that?
Jeremy Burks: Yeah. I think we've been on this journey for quite some time, you mentioned 40 years. For a moment I thought you meant I'd been there 40. No, that's not true. But we've been on this journey for quite some time. 40 years ago we started with wheat, 15 years ago with pea. We have already launched products with the fava. We're looking at other botanical sources. But it's actually it sounds so easy. Okay, we're going to find another botanical source and then we're just going to launch it on the market.
But you can't do that. You need everything in place. You need to be able to have the sustainable sourcing of the materials. So farmers have to be interested in producing and they need to be producing continuously for you. And then you need to be able to handle the product and extract, as I said, gently the protein and put it into a form that food manufacturers can use to make products that consumers will find delicious and that they'll try and that they'll keep eating. So it's a complicated story. And this center is a very important part of allowing people to do different things with the proteins and working with different proteins. Which is why we say we plan to keep launching.
Nicole Astra: And who's going to be utilizing the center? Who has access?
Jeremy Burks: Well we work closely with our customers. What we try to be is we try to be the best partner that they can have for launches into this space. There's an amazing array of very innovative people working in this, what we call the new gastronomy. Developing products, launching products, there's chefs involved, there's food technologies, a whole heap of startup companies. And what we want to do is we want to put ourselves in a position to be their best partner as they develop new offers for consumers. So of course we use it for our own internal programs, but the idea is that it's there to help us develop the products that the customers need to create their products.
Nicole Astra: You've also announced a substantial investment program. Can you expand on that for us.
Jeremy Burks: Yeah, we have. We really have. So we're investing in the order of half a billion euro. So it's a really big investment, enormous actually. It's I can't think of anyone else in the industry that's putting down as much money to help in the development of the industry. So it's really a big stake. And we invest basically all the way along the value chain. From understanding customers, understanding consumers. We have our own kitchens and labs all the way around the world, we have private facilities the one we were talking about previously.
We talked about a pilot facility and you imagine it might be something small that would fit in this room, but actually is the size of several houses. It's really, really big. But we have much, much smaller equipment too. So we have lab bench small scale, we do texturizing in different scales and different parts of the world. And then before that we're looking at the raw material, we have our own farm where we grow different crops that could be used in future. And we do have investments in breeding programs for seed breeding to get optimum crops and basically to help the farming part of this process to be optimized.
Nicole Astra: You know it seems trite to say, how are you going to change the world? But the truth is Roquette has been changing the world for 40 years. So what kind of global impact, truly, do you anticipate with the investment and the center?
Jeremy Burks: Yeah. So the market is changing fast. If you go back a while ago, people would eat plant-based because they're vegan or vegetarian. And they would do that because of ethical reasons, health reasons, sustainability reasons, or just because they like to be fast, and all very good reasons. But what happened was people were basically buying what they could because they must. And otherwise they couldn't sustain that position.
Now, we're touching so many more consumers. So there's a lot talk about the flexitarians. You know I don't know if anybody actually calls himself a flexitarian, but anyway, it's more a question of their behavior. And then beyond that, you will get into where it's really mainstream. Where people are buying the consumer products not because they must do, but just because they can. And because they want to because it's great food and good value and so on.
So all of that needs to be developed. And the bigger it is the more substantial the supply has to be. And that's really where we've been investing so that our customers can launch their products and be confident that behind them they've got a supplier who has got all the means to accompany them on their journey of growth.
Nicole Astra: Give our audience an idea of just how big Roquette is when you say partners. I mean really let's talk about the volume of collaborations.
Jeremy Burks: Oh. I mean we're working directly with actually serving directly several hundred customers already in this space. It's probably less than a thousand, but it's many hundreds of customers. And that's who we're supplying. Now of course we're working with a lot more because as I mentioned previously there're many, many people getting into this space. So it's a big exercise. And to do that, you've got to have an interface with the market.
You've got to have enough people with enough knowledge and capability to have rich conversations with customers on what are you trying to achieve? How are you going about it? What other ingredients are you trying to use? What sort of limitations are there in terms of how you're putting the product together? And our people do that and they understand that, and they can support the customer in that journey.
Nicole Astra: Roquette will continue to enlarge the field of possibilities. Jeremy, thanks for your time today.
Jeremy Burks: Thanks Nicole.
Plant ingredient giant, Roquette, remains committed to a secure, safe, and sustainable food system. Recently they announced the opening of a Plant Protein Center of Expertise in Vic-Sur-Aisne, France. This R&D accelerator aims to test emerging ingredients and further develop existing products. Senior VP of Plant Proteins Jeremy Burks says the goal is to introduce several new protein sources every five years. In addition, Roquette is investing 500 million euros toward developing the industry all along the value chain and across the globe.