Iowa company innovates better way to process non-GMO, organic soy ingredients
Soy Innovations International’s unique dry extrusion process uses no chemicals to produce soy ingredients with better flavor, functionality, and nutrition.
Soy Innovations International is an appropriate name for the Des Moines, Iowa-based company. Soy Innovations’ parent company, Triple “F,” innovated a unique dry extrusion soybean processing technology more than 40 years ago, which Soy Innovations has adapted to create soyfood ingredients for natural and organic food manufacturers.
Dry extrusion process
Conventional soybean processing involves an extraction method that separates the oil from the meal using chemical solvents, such as hexane. Older soybean processing methods, used by processors of organic and natural oils, use mechanical pressing to separate the oil. Triple “F” developed a dry extrusion method that uses both a heat and mechanical process to squeeze the oil and extract the meal. No chemicals are used. “Triple “F”’s innovation was to combine extrusion cooking with mechanical pressing in a way that it maintains the functionality of soy protein,” says Dr. Wilmot Wijeratne, director of Soy Innovations.
Triple “F” patented the dry extrusion process in 1967 and subsequently created a division, Insta-Pro International, to manufacture and market the equipment worldwide, which they continue to do today. Another division, Pharm-tech International, was added to produce specialized nutritional products for animal feed using the technology.
The technology has been used mainly for animal feed processing, but in 1998, Wijeratne, then a researcher at the University of Illinois’ department of food science, saw the potential for adapting it to make soyfood ingredients. “We had to modify the equipment and develop certain processes to be able to process soy into human food,” says Wijeratne, who completed the five-year upgrade in 2003.
The upgraded equipment extracts soymeal that is high in protein, superior in flavor, and rich in beneficial phytochemicals, such as isoflavones. In addition, the natural balance of nutrients is maintained through the process because the soybeans are not separated into their components.
Soy Innovations International was launched in 2003 to produce soy ingredients for food manufacturers. “By separating out the oil from the protein, we developed a number of functional ingredients that can be applied to different segments of the soyfood industry,” says Wijeratne. These ingredients include functional soy flour used in baking and pasta applications, textured soy protein used as meat extender/meat replacement, a rice and soy blend for breakfast cereals and nutritional bars, and soybean oil.
Soy Innovations is focused on the non-GMO and organic markets due to strong growth in both areas, particularly organic.
Wijeratne sees GMO-sensitive nations, such as the European Union, Japan, and Korea as lucrative markets. “Sentiments about GMOs are strong in those areas. Demand for non-GMO and organic food will be there for a long time, and we want to take advantage of that,” he says.
Soy Innovations currently sells 90 percent of its products to US companies and 10 percent to international buyers. Wijeratne would like to see that ratio become 50/50.
Dedicated to non-GMO and organic
Demand is strong for Soy Innovations’ products. The company’s Des Moines processing facility operates at full capacity, producing 40 tons of ingredients per day.
In January, Soy Innovations will open a new 54,000-square-foot production facility in nearby Indianola that will produce 80 tons per day for a combined production of 120 tons per day.
Both processing facilities will be exclusively non-GMO and organic.
Non-GMO soy ingredient accounts for 70 percent of production, while organic is 30 percent. Wijeratne sees great potential in organic. “We would like to see organics grow, but we just go where the market is.”
The Des Moines facility is certified organic by Quality Assurance International and certified kosher by Orthodox Union of New York.
Soy Innovations works with Schillinger Seed, which develops specialized, high-protein non-GMO soybean seed varieties. Soy Innovations has begun contracting with Iowa farmers cooperatives to produce the soybeans.
This year farmers will grow 1,000 acres of identity preserved, non-GMO soybeans and earn a fixed premium over commodity prices.
Farmers must follow identity preservation protocols to preserve the soybeans’ non-GMO status. These include ensuring that soybean fields are adequately separated from neighboring fields of genetically modified soybeans and following cleaning procedures on farm equipment, such as combines and storage bins to prevent GMO contamination.
When harvested soybeans arrive at Soy Innovations’ processing facility, they are sampled and tested using an Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay (ELISA) test that detects the Roundup Ready GM protein. “We like everything to test negative,” says Wijeratne.
If a load tests positive for GMOs, the sample is sent to a lab for DNA-based PCR analysis to quantify the level of GMO contamination.
In three years Soy Innovations has only rejected one load of soybeans due to GMO contamination. “That’s a good record,” says Wijeratne.
The aim of non-GMO controls is traceability. “We
should be able to trace any bean coming into plant back to the seed supplier
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