CANADA – Merit Functional Foods, a Canadian producer of plant-based protein is investing in a new pea and canola protein production facility in Manitoba, Canada, to meet the growing demand of plant-based protein.

The company is constructing a 94,000-square foot state-of-the-art plant which is expected to be fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Merit Functional Foods says that several major project milestones have been completed or are in progress. The company revealed that the facility’s superstructure was assembled in May, and the initial placement of equipment and enclosure of the building is occurring throughout June.

When complete, Merit noted that the facility will be the first and only commercial facility with the capability to produce food-grade canola protein, a new and exciting entrant to the plant-based protein ingredient segment.

“It’s a flexible facility that will produce an unprecedented pea protein and the first canola protein available for use in foods and beverages. Both of these proteins will have functional and nutritional characteristics that will set them apart from other ingredients available on the market,” explained Merit Co-CEO Ryan Bracken.

The company said that its pea and canola will be sourced and grown in Western Canada and processed and manufactured in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the heart of Canada’s agricultural hubs.

Merit said that the region’s agricultural activities alongside its capacity to support the project’s utilities requirements, makes the location a natural fit for the facility. Over the coming three years, Merit plans to create more than 175 new jobs for the community.

“We are proud Manitobans ourselves, and we’re honored to support our local economy,” Bracken said. “We’re appreciative of the support we’ve already received from the provincial and federal government. We are excited about commercializing a state-of-the-art plant protein manufacturing facility in Canada and enabling value-adding of Canadian grown pulses and oilseeds.”

The company explained that the current design for the facility is optimized to meet initial market demand for its specialty protein ingredients, and it is being designed with future growth in mind.

“We are already anticipating future demand, which will allow us to be agile by significantly increasing our capacity when the time is right,” Bracken said. “We know that our customers will rely on us for consistency in their supply chain as they scale up their production of plant-based foods.”

Merit has secured a debt financing package from a consortium of lenders including Export Development Canada, Farm Credit Canada, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, and CIBC.

The company intends to use the funding to commercialize and expand production capacity to address the growing global demand for plant proteins.

“We are pleased to be supporting Merit on their first commercial-scale project as they leverage their unique technology to bring innovative plant-based proteins to international markets,” said Carl Burlock, Executive Vice-President and Chief Business Officer at EDC. “We look forward to seeing the positive impacts that Merit has on the global food and beverage industry.”

Merits Functional Foods was established in 2019. The company disclosed that it is using Burcon NutraScience’s patented and disruptive protein extraction technology, which has been in development for more than 19 years, and is expected to help position Canada as one of the world’s leaders in plant-based protein.

“The made-in-Canada agricultural technologies and innovations from Merit Functional Foods not only give us a competitive advantage in the global marketplace, but they are also creating jobs and adding value to our farmers’ commodities,” said The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“This is a very exciting project that demonstrates our Government’s commitment to positioning Canada as a leader in the production of plant proteins.”

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