On Tuesday, Protein Industries Canada announced a new project that will leverage the combined strengths of Lumi Foods (legacy brand Blue Heron Creamery), Winecrush Technology and Save-On-Foods to enhance Canada’s plant-based cheese market.

This includes developing new products, as well as giving them a more prominent placement in grocery stores across the country.

“This new project truly showcases the innovation happening right now in Canada. With this innovation, we will be able to provide locally made food options for Canadians looking for dairy-free options or who follow a plant-based diet. The Protein Industries Supercluster’s investment in this project will assure us that we are producing the next generation of plant-based cheese, here in Canada,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

The partners will use Lumi Foods’ cultured cheesemaking methods—which enables the continued use of the term “cheese”—to create a new line of plant-based cheeses made from Canadian-grown crops, including oats, legumes and pulses. Most plant-based cheeses are currently made from ingredients sourced outside of Canada.

“It takes true dedication to evolve a sector, and that’s exactly what’s happening with this project,” said Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel. “Lumi Foods, Save-On-Foods and Winecrush Technology are proving that through innovation and collaboration, new plant-based products, specifically cheese, can be made with Canadian-grown ingredients – a first for Canada. It is through innovation like this that our country will become a world-leader in the production of plant-based foods, helping us reach our goal of $25 billion in sales by 2035. Plant-based products are healthy, nutritious and delicious it’s time they’re also easy to find in grocery stores.”

Once developed, the plant-based cheeses will be sold in Save-On-Foods locations across Canada, specifically in deli sections.

“This funding allows us to fully embrace the work of a decade,” said CEO and co-founder of Lumi Foods Karen McAthy. “With this funding, we can further develop and advance plant-based and animalfree dairy alternatives, and importantly, do so on an expedited timeline while working with Canadian grown ingredients and solutions. I would like to acknowledge our partners in this consortium: Winecrush, an innovator closing the loop on wine industry waste, and retail partner Save-On-Foods, for their forward thinking in creating space within their deli section for plant-based cheese. As a consortium, we aim to work to create a new cheese culture for all Canadians.”

This will be the first time plant-based cheeses will be alongside dairy cheeses. To help ensure the plant-based cheeses are shelf-stable for longer lengths of time, Winecrush Technology will test shelf-extending ingredients in the recipes, including dietary fibre and unsaturated fatty acids.

“We are pleased to partner with Protein Industries Canada, Lumi Foods and Save-On-Foods as worldclass partners to create the next generation of plant-based cheese,” said Winecrush Technology Chief Executive Officer Kirk Moir. “Our mission is to valorize agricultural sidestreams with the power of fermentation. We are advancing the performance of our patent-pending upcycling process focused on the power of polyphenols to produce transformational food ingredients that enable plant-based food producers to close critical gaps in taste, texture, price and clean-label nutrition. Working with this consortium, we are working to address key requirements focused on shelf life extension, an increasingly important consideration in our global food chain including plant-based cheese.”

The partners will work with the University of Alberta to perform complimentary research, focused on identifying strains of microbes that can be specialized for plant-based cheesemaking. This research will help improve the flavour, structure and aroma of plant-based cheeses, meeting consumer demand for plant-based products that are healthy and sustainable while also tasting delicious.

The partners have together invested $5.4 million into the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing an additional $5.4 million. The total project co-investment is $10.8 million.

This is Protein Industries Canada’s 25th technology announcement, and their 31st overall. Together with industry, they’ve invested more than $451 million into Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem.

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