Peas have emerged as the food industry's new favorite protein source, and are being used to replace animal proteins, given the environmental concerns linked to meat consumption, as well as the distrust towards soy from an important part of consumers.
This month, the meat replacements producer Beyond Meat made history with its debut on Wall Street, and the value of its shares almost tripled on its first day on the stock market. The successful vegan burgers and sausages from Beyond Meat, made with peas, will arrive this month at supermarkets in the United States.
The company Ripple Foods also has a line of pea-based dairy substitutes.
With peas becoming such an important commodity, agricultural giants are preparing to increase their supply, since it has been estimated that global sales of pea protein will quadruple by 2025.
The popularity of this vegetable is such that, anticipating the launch of new products and fearing a shortage of peas, the company Lightlife purchased the equivalent of more than a year's supply of the ingredient.
In addition to peas, there are many other protein sources in the vegetable kingdom that the processing industry could use, such as mung beans, brown rice, mustard seeds or lentils. Having a wide range of plant protein sources will be an advantage for the production of meat substitutes, whose texture will be more similar to that of animal meat.
With regard to soy, the fact of it having an allergen that is usually genetically modified has resulted in many conflicting headlines about the possibility that it may pose a risk to human health.
Therefore, brands loyal to soy could still be considering new strategies.
However, pea proteins might not be free of concerns. The Detox Project, a research organization that analyzes food in search of the pesticide glyphosate, has been analyzing the crop over the past year, and the results, like those of other products studied, have not been good. "We can hardly find a source of clean pea protein anywhere," said Henry Rowlands, project director. In fact, products labeled as organic had much higher levels of pesticides than conventional versions, he said.