Aspartame producer Ajinomoto has agreed to invest $15 million in Israeli plant-based protein company Hinoman, at the same time acquiring the exclusive sales rights for its Mankai plant protein product in the Japanese market.
Ajinomoto aims to establish a new business by promoting the development and sale of processed foods that use Mankai, as well as selling Mankai as an ingredient. The Japanese company called Mankai a ‘sustainable product with extraordinary nutritional value’ that has the potential to solve ‘the social issue of insufficient protein and amino acid nutrition’.
The vegetable whole-protein ingredient is derived from the vitamin and mineral-rich Mankai plant – a variety of the aquatic plant duckweed that is native to southeast Asia. In the last two years, Hinoman has debuted a cultivation process for the plant that enables it to grow the product faster, and in larger quantities, while guaranteeing a high protein content of at least 45% by dry weight.
Ajinomoto claimed that undernutrition and nutritional imbalance are emerging as problems for a wide range of generations, including the elderly and young women. Ingesting a sufficient amount of protein through meat and fish can pose a problem to time-poor consumers, and demand is increasing for processed foods that can easily supply high-quality protein. Ajinomoto will seek to create a range of finished products, all containing Mankai protein, that help meet this need.
Its own research showed that the protein foods market exceeded JPY 230 billion ($2 billion) in 2016, with growth forecast at an annual rate of between 2% and 3%.
As well as its nutritional value, Mankai can be cultivated in a short period with a relatively small amount of water, light and nutrients, meaning it can be produced efficiently with a minimal ecological footprint. Ajinomoto is confident that, by combining Mankai with its own seasoning and processing technologies and product development and marketing capabilities, it will be able to develop new products with a well-balanced nutritional profile.
The investment in Hinoman is scheduled for the latter part of this month, and the launch of Mankai products is scheduled for the 2018 fiscal year.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019