With a presence in over 140 countries, Bühler is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of plant equipment for grain and food processing, as well as advanced materials. The Switzerland-based multinational also has a presence in India since 1992, with about 800 employees providing complete sales, services and engineering support to customers.
Bühler specialises in alternative proteins and food ingredient processing. Its extrusion equipment and process expertise provide industrial-scale, complete solutions for processing alternative proteins into high quality meat or fish substitutes. The company recently launched PolyCool 1000, a high-performance cooling die that works with extrusion technology to enable the creation of meat or fish substitutes.
With the alternative proteins market expected to reach $17.9 billion by 2025, the demand for high performance extruders is likely to go up significantly. The same is true for India, where high moisture meat alternatives market is yet to take off. To know more about Bühler’s work in India, and the prospects of the alternative protein market in India, we had a conversation with Amit Kher, Senior Sales Manager, Bühler Group, India. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Is India an important market for Bühler? What is Bühler doing to expand its reach in the Indian market?
Yes, India is a relevant market for Bühler. We have been present in India since 1992, and have a strong regional presence in India with offices in Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, apart from our head office in Bengaluru. In addition, Bühler has been collaborating regularly with various technical centers in India, such as the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) and Assocom Institute of Bakery Technology & Management (AIBTM). We also cooperate with agencies such as the Good Food Institute to promote plant-based meat analogue solutions.
The plant-protein segment is new in India. Do you think Bühler, with its expertise in extrusion systems, can help companies in this space grow faster?
With its know-how and vast experience, Bühler can help the companies in this space to gain speed. In our application centers, customers can test new recipes and processes to prepare for industrial production. Moreover, Bühler teams are in constant exchange with customers, supporting them with up-to-date information. One example of that is the Bühler Virtual World, our online trade show, which was held last year for the first time and will take place from March 22-26, 2021. During this event, the participants have access to keynote speeches, solution and product presentations, virtual tours, and one-to-one meetings.
How big is Buhler’s presence in Indian alt-protein market? Which all companies are using your solutions?
We are well represented with the low moisture extrusion technology. However, the high moisture meat analogues (HMMA) segment is quite new in India. We have already signed off on a new line in India and are actively pursuing three to four cases at an advanced stage. Because of customer confidentiality, we cannot name the customers.
Do you think the price of Buhler’s extrusion equipment might come as a barrier for small players who are entering this space in India?
HMMA require a very high degree of controls for quality consistency and food safety. The high moisture meat segment is still a small market, but it is growing fast, and the customers appreciate the value. In consideration to the value that Bühler extrusion system brings, along with the efficiencies in production and environmental impact, the price should not be a constraint.
Besides extruders, what other applications is Bühler offering for Indian companies in plant-based food space?
Besides extrusion, Bühler also provides solutions for making protein concentrates, specially from pulses. Bühler has a vast experience in pulses processing in India and is in contact with many customers who are interested in setting manufacturing facilities for protein concentrates.
Are you planning to combine AI with your solutions to make food production even more efficient?
Bühler is focused on customer success. Therefore, it has been investing in solutions that increase the efficiency of food production. Bühler’s Mercury MES (manufacturing execution system), for example, provides real-time information on various production parameters and control processes. Apart from that, they help in complete traceability.
(A plant protein extruder is a machine in which plant ingredients are subjected to heat, pressure and moisture, and then passed through a small opening known as a die. It results in a moisture-rich semi-solid material, which is known as wet textured vegetable protein (TVP). One can create dry TVP by passing the final product through a dryer. The TVP is used in making of meat analogues.)