Gene editing startup Benson Hill has launched two new business segments, Ingredients and Fresh.
Ingredients will focus on enhancing yellow peas and soy for the plant-based protein industry, while Fresh will focus on applying the company’s CropOS breeding platform with the grower base and distribution network of its subsidiary – field produce operation J&J Family of Farms. Fresh will aim to produce ‘functional foods’ to meet consumer demand.
Benson Hill is planning to commercialize its Ultra-High Protein soybean varieties this year and has a collaboration with Indiana-based Rose Acre Farms to expand its soybean processing capacity and build out supply chain infrastructure.
The booming plant-based protein segment has created massive demand for certain ingredients like yellow peas and soy. Benson Hill’s new Ingredients segment is targeted directly at providing food manufacturers with more options. Yellow peas are the second-largest crop for plant-based ingredients, according to Benson Hill, yet no one has dabbled in genomic innovation around the plant.
The foundation of Benson Hill’s Ingredients segment is what it describes as a comprehensive genomic map of the plant. In combination with its CropOS breeding platform, it hopes to create new yellow pea varieties that mitigate off-flavors while upping the amount of protein per pea. It also hopes to develop yellow pea formulations that reduce the need for high-input intensive processing steps.
It also has plans to test new formulations at its Midwest-based yellow pea processor, Dakota Ingredients, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the startup. Aimed at both the human and pet food markets, it hopes to target traceable, food-grade, kosher, and non-GMO standards.
With its new Fresh segment, Benson Hill is hoping to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in functional foods. Benson HIll also has a subsidiary in this segment, J&J Family of Farms, a field produce company that will enable the company to develop and commercialize differentiated produce and functional foods “to serve the growing convergence between the produce and pharmacy aisles,” according to the press release. The ‘food as medicine’ segment is growing lately, with startups like meal replacement maker Muniq and healthcare-focused meal plan service Project Well bringing investors to the table.
With its roots in plant biology, Benson Hill is fast becoming a vertically integrated food and ingredients business, able to build and secure markets for its technologies.