Essential Ingredients

Behind the Scenes With PURIS, Our Pea Protein Manufacturer

9 min read
We sat down with CEO Tyler Lorenzen for a deep-dive into their regenerative farming practices—and how his team prioritizes sustainability to provide an environmentally sound and flavorful plant-based protein.
We sat down with CEO Tyler Lorenzen for a deep-dive into their regenerative farming practices—and how his team prioritizes sustainability to provide an environmentally sound and flavorful plant-based protein.

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When it comes to making products, Traceability is paramount. Every single aspect of our decision-making, from the suppliers we choose to partner with to how we approach our packaging, is made with you and the planet in mind.

Essential Protein is no exception—and that’s a big reason why we ultimately teamed up with PURIS, a US-based supplier that relies on regenerative farming to source our organic pea protein.†

We caught up with PURIS CEO Tyler Lorenzen to get the scoop on how his team prioritizes sustainability to provide an environmentally sound and flavorful plant-based protein.

Why are peas an attractive source of plant protein?

Peas are an incredibly powerful and versatile crop—much more so than what most people assume when they think of the legume. While there are countless reasons for pea protein’s popular appeal (nutrient and fiber density, for one), I believe three properties really set it apart.

  1. They are nitrogen fixators.

Peas are nitrogen fixators, which means they have a relationship with the bacteria in the soil that converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plant can use. They produce so much nitrogen for the plant that there’s an excess left in the soil after harvest for the next crop, which translates to less fertilizer, less runoff, and improved soil health.

  1. They are resource conscious.

Peas are a cool season crop, but we’ve found more opportunities to grow in different parts of the country, which encourages crop diversity and helps alleviate the risk of over-farming land.

  1. They help build soil health.

As a cover crop, peas help preserve topsoil, the heartland’s most precious resource. As a cover crop, peas can help reduce erosion and promote sustainability, which serves as an investment in the Farm Belt’s (and the planet’s) future.

What makes PURIS’ peas and manufacturing approach different?

At its core, PURIS is a genetics company. Each PURIS pea has decades worth of breeding built into its DNA. Our agronomists have been hand-crossing crops for 35 years, keeping an independent supply of high-quality, non-GMO seeds. We have created varieties that perform above and beyond the norm in terms of yield, protein content, and resistance to the elements.

When it comes to manufacturing, our greatest advantage is that we handle all production close to home. We’re vertically integrated, which allows us more visibility, accountability, and quality control than other suppliers.

How would you describe PURIS’ protein for flavor, texture, and color?

In addition to prioritizing best-in-class function and performance, we are constantly striving for cleaner taste and mouthfeel. Plant protein can come with some negative associations—especially regarding taste and texture—and after years of perfecting the formula, our Research and Development landed on one that’s delicious, smooth, and free of additives. We’re a blank slate for the makers of the world to innovate with.

Can you talk about your regenerative farming practices and what that means?

Regenerative agriculture has really picked up steam in recent years—an encouraging sign. Simply retaining soil health is not enough; too much damage has already been done. Our team has made a point to go beyond corporate greenwashing and really push for change in how we approach agriculture at the systems level.

Our goal is to be true environmental stewards. That work starts in the fields. Thankfully, we have a roster of clients and growers around the country who aspire to the same vision and have begun enacting the necessary changes to make a difference.

Our grower base is naturally progressive; they’ve already broken out of the corn-corn or corn-soy crop rotation and added peas. We view diverse crop rotation as the start of the transition to regenerative agriculture. Many of our growers use cover crops, which capture carbon from the air and transfer it into the soil, and they also make an effort to use reduced or no tillage, which prevents the carbon in the soil from being exposed to the air and turning into carbon dioxide. There’s still a ton of work to be done, but the more attention we can draw to the issue, the more likely we’ll impact shifts toward regenerative agriculture practices on a global scale.

What are some other sustainability practices that PURIS prides itself on?

Our team has made incredible progress with upcycling parts of the pea that have been previously underutilized or unused, and repurposing them into valuable ingredients. Our Research and Development team has also developed products like pea starch, pea fiber, and pea syrup, all of which can be used as eco-conscious alternatives to more common ingredients in the marketplace.

Why are plant protein sources important for the future of food and our food system?

The short answer is protein independence. Protein independence is the pursuit of growing enough food to meet a population’s nutrition needs. The United States has achieved this using animal proteins, but PURIS is leading the path to plant protein independence.

That said, our impact as food makers can’t end at our borders. There’s millions of people in developing countries around the world who have the same nutrition needs we do—and society has to account for improving global economics, which often drives demand for richer, more resource-intensive, livestock-based diets. These increasingly prosperous populations would require roughly double the number of crops grown globally between now and 2050. (1)

Simply put, the math won’t add up until a globally scalable solution is found. That’s our role: to democratize access and affordability by giving growers and makers the tools they need to sustainably feed their communities—in the short run and the long-term.

Why was it important to PURIS for its peas to be born, grown, and cultivated in the U.S.?

People should know the true cost of the food on their plate. When we took stock of the total impact—from the effort required to grow the crops and transport them around the world, to the time it takes to process them and get them into the food supply—it became clear there was a better way forward. Why not be the ones to solve the problem?

†Note: Essential Protein is not organic and includes a combination of organic and non-organic ingredients.

References:

  1. Ranganathan, J., Waite, R., Searchinger, T., & Hanson, C. (2018, December 5). How to Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People by 2050, in 21 Charts. World Resources Institute. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://www.wri.org/insights/how-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-2050-21-charts

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