Pea-based tofu offers another alternative for plant-based protein

19 Apr 2021

UK-based tofu alternative manufacturer Peafu is looking to make a pea-based tofu product available to the market by 2022. Currently, the product is in the prototype phase.

To commercialize Peafu, founder Tor Kemp is aiming to raise £150,000 in the company's first investment round in order to finalize its product recipe and develop the brand's product profile. By year four, Kemp expects to generate £5 million in sales.

Pea-based tofu offers another alternative for plant-based protein

Reaching these lofty growth goals is not out of the realm of possibility for Peafu as the meat substitute market is growing at a meteoric rate. Grand View Research data show that the UK meat alternative market will expand from $489 million in 2019 to $727 million in 2025. Worldwide, these figures are even more staggering with the market anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.4% to reach $13.8 billion by 2027 from $3.71 billion in 2016.

Tofu is situated at the center of this explosive growth as one of the top four categories of protein alternatives, with soy as a base material being the No. 1 choice for manufacturers. In 2020, the soy protein segment held the largest share of the overall meat substitute market, according to Meticulous Research.

However, while soy remains a dominant ingredient in the alternative protein space, there are concerns surrounding its sustainability. Of the nearly 250 million metric tons of soy harvested annually, only 2% of the crop is certified under the Roundtable on Responsible Soy with a zero deforestation designation. Furthermore, the majority of soy used globally is imported, thereby generating a larger carbon footprint in its supply chain than if it were purchased and processed locally.

Peafu hopes to tackle these two sustainability questions by using locally-grown yellow peas from the UK. Currently, yellow peas are grown across the UK but are primarily used for animal feed, but Kemp is working to change that by using this sustainable crop – pea roots sequester atmospheric nitrogen – as a tofu alternative. In its first line of pea-based tofu products, Peafu will include a natural, smoked and value-added tofu products, Food Navigator reported.

While the UK may have a surplus of pea protein, the humble pea has already found a warm welcome as an alternative protein source in the United States. The ingredient has found its way into everything from dairy products and snack bars to faux meat and protein shakes. In fact, the ingredient became so popular that there was even talk of a pea protein shortage in 2019 as manufacturers clamored to get their hands on this protein alternative.

Since then, institutional investors and legacy food manufacturers have actively invested in generating more pea production. In 2019, Cargill invested over $100 million into Puris, a Minnesota-based producer of pea protein, and Ingredion chose to focus on this alternative protein option as one of its five platforms for growth.

Such interest in pea protein is unlikely to cool off in the near future. The global market for pea protein is expected to reach $176 million by 2025, per data from Allied Market Research. With such bright prospects ahead, Peafu is setting itself up to step into a market that is a fan of pea-based products and insatiably hungry for sustainable plant-based protein alternatives.

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