Wide Open Agriculture eyes significant global expansion in 2024 with lupin protein innovation

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By Colin Hay - 
Wide Open Agriculture ASX WOA proteins lupins industrials food

Regenerative food and agriculture specialist Wide Open Agriculture (ASX: WOA) is confident that it has built the right foundation to significantly expand its global business in 2024.

In a letter to the company’s shareholders, chief executive officer Jay Albany wrote that Wide Open’s top priority for the new year is converting its pipeline of expertise, assets and projects into sales.

On the expertise side, Mr Albany said Wide Open has major advantages in the plant-based protein market.

“In WOA’s case, we have deep expertise – and globally defensible intellectual property (IP) – in the extraction and preparation of lupin protein isolate,” he wrote.

“Our IP improves the taste and techno-function of lupin protein, positioning us as a high-performance alternative to soy and pea, the largest incumbent plant protein ingredients.”

In 2024, Wide Open is looking to grow its position in a soy protein market valued in excess of $10 billion in 2023, with pea protein soon expected to exceed A$3b.

Mr Albany says that, while Wide Open is a new entrant in the soy and pea protein market, it is bringing a differentiation strategy to commodity proteins which require the inclusion of other ingredients to achieve the taste, texture, gelation and solubility requirements for recipe development.

Cleaner taste

“Our lupin protein portfolio offers a clean taste with high techno-function, enabling our customers to produce delicious new products with a reduced ingredient list,” Mr Albany said.

“Lupins are competitive for health benefits as well, with all nine essential amino acids, anti-diabetic properties, an attractive Omega 3 to 6 ratio and good digestibility.”

In preparation for its growth plans, Wide Open successfully completed its top 2023 priority by moving its lupin-based protein program from pilot to commercial scale and with the commercialisation of its Buntine Protein product.

“We outlined an ambitious plan to bring Buntine to market fast via a capital-light strategy to avoid the significant time and expense of a greenfield build,” he said.

“We have a clear plan for commercial volumes in 2024 and optionality to expand that fivefold in the future.”

First direct orders filled

Wide Open recently began selling its first direct orders of Buntine Protein out of Kewdale in Western Australia and its first order of Prolupin’s isolate LP90 shipped during December.

Mr Albany said it is now clear Buntine Protein and the company’s lupin-based products are globally competitive.

Other highlights from 2023 included the acquisition of a German manufacturing facility of Prolupin for $4.2 million.

Key acquisition

Mr Albany said the acquisition is a game-changer for the company as it immediately opens the door to Europe, the world’s most advanced consumer market for plant-based foods.

It has been estimated that the facility has the potential to triple turnover at Wide Open if the company is able to achieve sales at full production capacity.

As part of its vision to engage a large commercial production partner, Wide Open also signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Saputo Dairy Australia, a subsidiary of one of the largest dairies in the world.

Under the agreement, Wide Open and its partner will work to produce large quantities (up to 5,000 tonnes per annum in the first site) of lupin protein.