Organic pea-based ingredient processor gets federal backing


An Edmonton processor making a food-grade high-fibre sugar substitute from organic pea starch has picked up federal funding to speed its expansion in Alberta.

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) last month announced a federal interest-free loan worth about $2.94 million for BioNeutra North America.

The investment, WD said, will allow the company “to acquire equipment needed to double its manufacturing capacity and move its bottling processes from a foreign supplier to the company’s Alberta facility.”

The expansion is expected to result in more than 20 jobs over the next four years, WD said.

The BioNeutra plant’s principal product is VitaFiber IMO, billed as a “naturally sweet, low-calorie and high-fibre alternative to sugar.”

VitaFiber IMO, BioNeutra said, is a “high-quality, high-purity” isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) made by enzymatic conversion of starch with a “mild, pleasant flavour” at about 50 to 60 per cent of the sweetness of sucrose, useable in applications such as confectionary, nutrition bars, ice cream, beverages, bakery and savoury sauces.

The company sells its natural and organic product lines both at retail and to food manufacturers looking to use healthier alternatives to sugar in their products.

“We are thrilled with the customer response to our sustainable, pea-based VitaFiber,” BioNeutral Global CEO Jianhua Zhu said in WD’s release. “We know that our customers are looking for smarter nutrition through sugar reduction and increased fibre.”

With the WD support, “BioNeutra is accelerating the expansion of our facility to meet the expected demand for our ingredients both here in Canada and around the world.”

“The demand for healthy, organic plant-based foods is growing exponentially around the world, and Alberta is well-positioned to capitalize on this opportunity thanks to its strong agricultural sector,” Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, the federal cabinet’s special representative for the Prairie region, said in the same release.

The funding for BioNeutra comes from WD’s Business Scale-up and Productivity (BSP) program, which aims to support “high-growth businesses that are scaling up and producing innovative goods, services, or technologies” with interest-free, repayable funding.

The WD agreement provides a one-year grace period after funding is completed; the investment is then repayable over five years with interest-free monthly instalments, the company said.

“This will allow BioNeutra to realize revenue growth from its expansion and other activities prior to initial repayments.”

Specifically, BioNeutra said it plans to step up sales activities worldwide touting the fiber and “sugar reduction” benefits of the VitaFiber IMO product line.

“Additional marketing activities will be centred around the introduction of new products currently being developed by the company,” BioNeutra said in a separate release.