The production of healthy and sustainable plant-protein solutions is a game-changer when it comes to the goal of closing the protein gap and feeding up to 10 billion people with existing resources by 2050. Thanks to the partnership between Hosokawa Alpine and Bühler, food manufacturers benefit from a unique competitive advantage in this booming market; enjoying a well-rehearsed solution that seamlessly covers every step of the process.
Lukas Hofstetter, June 2022
When Dr. Antonio Fernández, Chairman of the Board of Hosokawa Alpine signed the partnership with Bühler in June 2021, he recalls the announcement did not create a big buzz in the food industry. Instead, the step toward official joint collaboration after decades of cooperation was simply characterized by overwhelming logic. “What unites us are the same values: technology at the highest level, quality, sustainability, innovative strength, long-standing partnerships with our customers, and the pursuit of digitalization,” explains Dr. Fernández.
Hosokawa Alpine’s core competence in protein dry fractionation is fine grinding and classifying. Since the 1970s, the company from Augsburg in Bavaria has acquired in-depth application knowledge through its involvement with numerous customer projects and has continuously developed its expertise. Long before healthy, sustainable, and regional nutrition became a megatrend, Hosokawa Alpine, like Bühler, was active in this business field and now benefits from this head start in knowledge and experience – and the well-established partnership with Bühler. “We have been working with Bühler for a very long time and always act as a single unit to offer our customers plants from a single source. The new strategic collaboration with Bühler now allows us to fully exploit the potential of the value chain,” says Dr. Fernández.
The value chain is the complete processing of pulses from reception to separation into protein and starch fractions. Johannes Wick, CEO Grains & Food at Bühler, underscores the importance of this one-stop process solution. “Bühler covers the complete preprocessing of pulses: handling, cleaning, shelling, and grinding. After that, the products pass seamlessly into Hosokawa Alpine’s fine grinding and air sifting for the efficient production of protein and starch fractions. This means we can offer our customers a single solution from a single point of contact, guaranteeing them maximum yield.”
The starch fractions are used to produce bakery products, noodles, or pasta. This is a market which is growing constantly, but not exponentially. Demand for protein concentrates from pulses, on the other hand, has skyrocketed in recent years. The rapidly increasing supply of plant-based meat substitutes such as burger patties, sausages, or chicken reflects the trend toward vegetarianism, veganism, and flexitarianism – a neologism for a predominantly vegetarian diet with the occasional consumption of high-quality meat.
What unites us are the same values: technology at the highest level, quality, sustainability, innovative strength, longstanding partnerships with our customers, and the pursuit of digitalization.
Dr. Antonio Fernández, Chairman of the Board of Hosokawa Alpine
According to the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the percentage of vegetarians in Germany has doubled from 5 percent in 2020 to 10 percent in 2021. The same is true for vegans, whose number has grown from 1 percent to 2 percent. In a study by the BMEL, 30 percent of respondents also said they are more often substituting meat products with plant-based alternatives. This hunger for plant proteins is causing food processors to make drastic changes in production.
A prime example is Müller’s Mühle, the largest processor of pulses in Northern Europe. To meet the inexorable rise in demand for protein concentrates from pulses, the company based in Gelsenkirchen, Germany decided to build a completely new plant with the latest processing lines from Bühler and Hosokawa Alpine.
“Although we have been working together on such projects for decades, the commissioning of this plant was something special. For us, the process solutions at Müller’s Mühle are emblematic of the interwoven expertise we offer our customers,” explains Dr. Fernández.
Standing still is a foreign concept for Hosokawa Alpine. Across 3,000 m², its engineers are tirelessly researching customized solutions together with customers and partners. The potential is not limited to superfood pulses. “We are increasingly receiving inquiries for the ultra-fine grinding of soy, wheat, oilseeds, or for side-stream upcycling, but also for the processing of mushrooms, algae, and insects.
Against the background of sustainability, side-stream upcycling is an important and exciting field of development. Many of these proteinaceous products have previously been used as livestock feed. If they can find their way directly back into human nutrition, that is desirable,” Dr. Fernández says.
This change of mindset in nutrition naturally plays into Hosokawa Alpine’s hands. But for the technology company, the meaning and purpose behind the developments is just as important.
“We are contributing to reduced meat consumption with our joint solutions with Bühler for tasty and nutritious alternatives, thus achieving a positive effect on climate change. This drives us to develop even better and more efficient solutions together every day,” explains Dr. Fernández.