Global functional ingredient manufacturer Beneo has opened a  €4.3m ($4.8m) vegetable protein production plant in Wanze, Belgium, to capitalise on the increasing demand for meat alternatives.

BioWanze, a subsidiary of Beneo’s sister firm CropEnergies, will operate the facility, which is part of the existing BioWanze biorefinery.

The biorefinery uses the entire raw material utilised in production to manufacture high-quality food, feed and fuel with zero waste.

Beneo is a division of the Südzucker Group and engaged in the production of functional ingredients derived from chicory roots, beet sugar, rice and wheat.

“An increasing number of consumers actively try to reduce their meat intake and seek out alternatives.”

The company’s textured protein includes wheat flour, wheat protein and water. Beneo said the ingredient can be used to replace meat in a range of traditionally meat-based products, such as burgers, nuggets and bolognese sauce.

Beneo executive board member Christoph Boettger said: “We are seeing a big shift in consumer diets as an increasing number of consumers actively try to reduce their meat intake and seek out alternatives.

“Wheat protein was the most used plant-based protein in new meat substitute launches in 2018 and we see great potential for this market in 2019 and beyond.”

BioWanze director André Tonneaux said: “We look forward to working closely with BENEO as we embark on this new joint venture to produce plant-based proteins.

“As well as expanding production capabilities, this investment will secure future growth and open up important employment opportunities here in Wallonia.”

Beneo employs more than 1,000 people and has production units in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Italy.