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Sustainable Foods: Producing planet-pleasing ‘chicken’ from hemp protein

This article was published on Aug 16, 2023, 2:23 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Sustainable Foods brought the perfect recipe. Callaghan Innovation brought the production know-how. The result was the ability to produce and launch a sustainable and tasty hemp-based chicken alternative.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • A lot of meat alternatives produced in New Zealand were using imported proteins. Sustainable Foods however, wanted to lower the impact on the planet and find a New Zealand-based alternative for their new ‘chicken’ product.
    • After settling on a recipe, Sustainable Foods and the New Zealand Food Innovation Network took to work, figuring out how they could produce the chicken alternative at scale and launch domestically.
    • With large scale production now possible, Sustainable Foods not only got the confidence needed to invest in a world-class hub in Kapiti but launched their plan*t-made chicken.

    Rethinking how we eat

    We now live in an age where consumers not only question what makes up their next meal but also what the environmental cost is to put it on their plate. Offering a vegetarian or vegan product alone simply isn’t enough.

    That’s why Justin Lemmens and Kyran Rei, co-founders of Sustainable Foods, took on the challenge of not only creating a plant-based chicken product, but ensuring it could be sustainably produced in New Zealand (all the while tasting great of course). 

    Under the plan*t brand, Lemmens and Rei already had a number of meat alternatives in the market, however, they were concerned that all meat alternatives produced in New Zealand were in fact primarily using imported protein powders. 

    The perfect solution, they found, was a unique hemp protein - it is grown right here in New Zealand and contains all nine essential amino acids.  

    A formula for success, a path to production

    After deciding on the use of hemp protein, Sustainable Foods developed a formula for the chicken alternative that met their stringent taste, texture and appearance standards. The issue then, however, was they needed a facility that could scale-up that formulation and allow them to launch into the domestic market. 

    Luckily, Callaghan Innovation’s New Zealand Food Innovation Network was up for the challenge, offering the support of their South Island-based support hub, FoodSouth. 

    The main obstacle facing the team was how they would transfer the formulation to a piece of equipment as complex as an extruder. And whilst, the Operations Team at FoodSouth encountered numerous technical hurdles, they succeeded, coming up with a way that meant the extruder was able to make commercial quantities of hemp-based chicken.  

    Sustainable plant-based chicken is here

    Overall, access to FoodSouth has allowed the team at Sustainable Foods to trial different ingredients and equipment under real-world processing conditions that directly replicate those found in a commercial production facility. 

    Sustainable Foods has been able to understand a lot more about how the product behaves at a larger scale, meaning consequent investment in a world-class plant-based hub in Kapiti was an easy decision. The biggest success of all though - launching their hemp-based chicken.

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