VEVEY, SWITZERLAND — Nestle S.A. has entered into a joint development agreement with ingredient manufacturers Merit Functional Foods and Burcon Nutrascience Corp. to develop plant protein ingredients to be used in Nestle’s products. The partnership will combine Nestle’s development, production and commercialization capabilities with Burcon’s extraction and purification technology and Merit’s production capabilities, according to the companies.

“Developing nutritious and great-tasting plant-based meat and dairy alternatives requires access to tasty, nutritious and sustainable raw materials as well as proprietary manufacturing technology,” said Stefan Palzer, chief technology officer at Nestle. “The partnership with Burcon and Merit will give us access to unique expertise and a new range of high-quality ingredients for plant-based food and beverages.”

Burcon Nutrascience, Vancouver, BC, holds patents related to the composition, application, and manufacturing of novel plant-based proteins derived from pea, canola, soy, hemp, sunflower seed and other crops.

Based in Winnipeg, Merit Functional Foods is a manufacturer of plant-protein ingredients. The company is building a manufacturing plant that will produce plant-protein ingredients using Burcon’s technology. The facility is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Partnering with Nestle — a global leader in food and nutrition — is a great milestone for Merit Functional Foods,” said Ryan Bracken, co-CEO of Merit. “Merit has already demonstrated the impact of our novel proteins in plant-based foods. This new partnership helps build on this, and it’s a major step in developing the next generation of nutritious and delicious plant-based products that draw on the benefits of our novel proteins.”

Dean Best, the food editor for the market research company GlobalData, London, said the agreement between the three companies signals how central improving the taste of plant-based items is to Nestle’s ambitions in the category.

“Nestle, the world’s largest food maker, continues to beef up its plant-based business — and rivals large and small need to sit up and take notice,” he said. “Through acquisitions and innovation, Nestle has sought to tap into growing consumer demand for plant-based food. CEO Mark Schneider is on the record as saying Nestle has ‘the ambition and the perseverance to be a major player in this area.’”

In September 2019, Nestle introduced the Sweet Earth Awesome Burger in the United States. Alongside the Awesome Burger, Nestle is offering Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds, a ground version of the plant-based protein. In December 2019, Nestle announced the launch of meatless Digiorno and Stouffer’s offerings made with Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds.