Roquette’s big ideas and returns come from small things like peas


Source: Winnipeg Free Press

The same day that the U.S. government slapped tough tariffs on its most important trading partners, the World Trade Centre Winnipeg was holding a World Trade Day event with the theme Big Ideas to Big World.

Pascal Leroy, the head of the global nutrition ingredient company Roquette, seemed to enjoy talking to the Winnipeg audience about the big ideas that have spurred that family-owned business to become a $5-billion-per-year company with 8,300 employees and operations around the world.

 Leroy said planning is still ongoing for the company’s $400-million pea protein processing plant in Portage la Prairie, the largest of its kind in the world, that is scheduled for completion in 2020.

“Our team is fine-tuning the project to launch construction as soon as we can,” Leroy said.

In the meantime, the company has put together a team of around 15 people in Winnipeg — including human resources and purchasing staff — and has started talking to pea producers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to organize access to raw material for the plant designed to process more than 125,000 tonnes of yellow peas annually. It is expected to employ approximately 150 people when completed.

It will more than double the company’s capacity in that niche product. It already has one other plant in France.

Leroy says Roquette is the global leader in human nutrition, and now produces an array of innovative products it has learned to extract from natural products. He said the company believes there will be strong growth to come in the plant-based protein market, with pea protein alone growing by 15 per cent annually.

In addition to building production capacity, he said the company has ambitious plans to add 10 new patents per year in the field of pea protein and starch processing.

In terms of thinking big, Manitoba companies could learn something from the progressive style of Roquette. While this will be its first operation in Canada, the company already has production facilities in China and India, a couple in the U.S. and several in Europe.

Leroy said while Roquette is working on the Portage la Prairie project, it’s not just thinking of the next five years but the next several decades.

He said the company philosophy is “what matters most is what is lasting.”