Crop genetics company Benson Hill has struck a partnership with Kellogg’s-owned MorningStar Farms to supply the latter with soy ingredients for alt-meat products. The financial terms of the deal are not disclosed.
MorningStar Farms will incorporate Benson Hill’s Ultra-High Protein soybeans into its lineup of plant-based meats that currently includes beefburger, chicken, and breakfast meat analogs.
The lowdown on Ultra-High Protein
St. Louis, Missouri-based Benson Hill has developed selectively-bred soybeans to produce a bean with a higher nutrient profile that’s more ecologically sustainable than typical soy varieties.
- Ultra-High Protein soy contains 20% more protein out of the ground compared to regular soybeans, says Benson Hill. In theory, that means more protein per acre and requires fewer inputs such as pesticides and manpower.
- Through streamlining and eliminating certain steps in soy processing, Benson Hill says it can produce a bean that uses 70% less water and results in 50% fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
- In a statement from December 2021, Benson Hill said results from the 2021 harvest of these soybeans were “strong” and that the company is, “well-positioned to help meet growing farmer and market interest in our offerings.”
Why it matters
The Good Food Institute says that global demand for meat will double by 2050. Companies using soy, yellow pea, and other plant-based ingredients to replicate meat without the animals offer an enticing proposition to consumers: enjoy the taste of meat without the traditional livestock industry, which contributes 14.5% of anthropogenic GHG emissions globally.
However, growing and processing crops for food still requires significant resources and creating meat substitutes can also be energy-intensive. A recent report from the Brussels-based International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) suggested many of the claims made about plant-based meat’s environmental benefits are “limited and speculative.”
Benson Hill is clearly trying to address this with its more-protein-per-acre soybean that needs fewer inputs to produce — and to scale that product, the company acquired a soybean crushing facility from Seymour, Indiana-based Rose Acre Farms in 2021 and Iowan soy processing firm ZFS Creston in 2022.
MorningStar Farms is a big name in the plant-based protein space, which gives Benson Hill a strong entry point for when it looks to get its Ultra-High Protein beans into the hands of other food manufacturers.
What they say
Kellogg’s has touted the Benson Hill-MorningStar deal as an environmental one. Sara Young, general manager of plant-based proteins at Kellogg’s, said in a statement that plant-based foods have become “a core principle of our brand and having that as a driver we think truly distinguishes us from other players in the space.” Kellogg’s actually bills itself on its website as “one of the original plant-based food companies.”
Little wonder this is the case. Like other agribusiness corporates, Kelloggs is under pressure to not just announce climate commitments but also deliver on them. Benson Hill, with its “strong” results from its first harvest of Ultra-High Protein, may be able to provide a more efficient, sustainable protein ingredient that would add more weight to Kelloggs and MorningStar’s sustainability claims.
Along with the Benson Hill news, MorningStar also announced a couple of other environment-related initiatives:
- The brand announced new recycle-ready packaging for foods in flexible plastic bags consumers can recycle at participating drop-off locations.
- MorningStar’s products will now come in paperboard boxes that are recyclable curbside.
- MorningStar will also source 100% renewable electricity this year through a virtual power purchase agreement, as well as an investment in renewable energy credits.
All of these efforts are part of Kellogg’s Better Days commitment through which the company aims to address wellbeing, hunger relief, and climate resilience for 3 billion people by the end of 2030.