Liven Proteins has a unique approach to expanding the ingredients available to Canada’s plant-based food and beverage manufacturers. The company is focused on developing an animal-free collagen using microbial fermentation, which Liven Co-Founder and CEO Fei Luo says provides a unique nutritional profile and potentially improves texture, making it appeal to vegans and flexitarians alike.
“We believe in order to make a bigger impact on sustainability, we need to improve the functionality, texture and nutrition, so that we can encourage more consumers to have this option and to choose this option for a plant-based diet,” she explained.
Luo and her team are currently deep in the research and development phase of their work. They’ve seen significant success so far—enough to start scaling up production and will be providing samples to their partners and other interested companies very soon.
Hearing customers out and taking each sample request seriously has been particularly useful in further product development. Partners such as New School Foods—with whom Liven is partnered in a Protein Industries Canada project to develop plant-based seafood alternatives—have been able to provide feedback on what works best in their end products, which allows the Liven team to better refine their own process and ingredient design.
“They are plant-based companies, so through this collaboration they help us to learn what customers want,” Luo said. “Our technology is really flexible, it can make a lot of things, but at the end of the day we need to make things with the functionality our customers want. So getting feedback and even checking R&D progress with them really helps Liven learn a lot.”
While the company has encountered its share of challenges—Luo cited access to a biomanufacturing facility and talent as one of the largest—staff have found ways to overcome them and assess new opportunities as they arise. In testing their ingredient, the Liven team has discovered there’s plenty of potential for novel ingredient work, particularly in terms of how such ingredients can be used in end products.
“Consumers need options—whole cut, for example, and functional snacks. We still need a lot of innovation to actually attract consumers to consume plant-based rather than meat proteins,” Luo said. “The industry needs support in terms of novel ingredients to make the plant proteins shine, because the animal product is a whole package … so we need more innovation on ingredients to really help them have a better end product.”
Through collaboration with their partners and a commitment to developing a new and unique animal-free protein ingredient, Liven Protein is helping Canada meet this growing consumer demand—providing consumers with an option that’s healthy, nutritious and delicious.