Soon enough, your local barista could be asking if you’d like chickpea milk in your latté.
A new food tech startup called ChickP is set to launch a new chickpea-based protein for use in dairy alternatives, specifically milk and yogurt. The isolate was developed by a team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who discovered a way to extract up to 90 percent pure protein from a chickpea seed (that is, the bean) — which is much higher protein than can be gleaned from, say, almonds or soy.
Founded in 2016 in Israel, Chickp has raised an estimated $1.2 million according to Crunchbase. The startup is planning to partner with alternative dairy companies to provide them with their high protein isolates for new product R&D. The startup hasn’t revealed where they will launch, but they did indicate they were looking to work with companies with a global reach.
Based on America’s hunger for alternative dairy, I wouldn’t be surprised if ChickP targets the U.S. market. In the U.S., sales of plant-based milk grew by 6 percent over 2018, while plant-based yogurt sales spiked 39 percent, according to data from the Plant Based Food Association and the Good Food Institute. Consumers’ rising demand for plant-based dairy has caused a flurry of companies to try and milk-ify a wide variety of plants, from macadamia to hemp to current cult favorite, oat.
However, chickpea milk has a few advantages that could help it thrive in the alternative dairy space. Firstly, chickpeas have a neutral flavor without the same bitter aftertaste that comes with, say, pea protein or soy. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, ChickP’s protein also has a smoother texture than other plant-based proteins, which can be chalky or curdle in acidic drinks (looking at you, almond milk). Finally, chickpea protein is free from soy and tree nuts, which are some of the most common food allergens.
ChickP isn’t the only one leveraging garbanzo beans’ high protein potential. Fellow Israeli startup InnovoPro makes plant-based protein powder from chickpeas which can also be used in alternative dairy products. Here in the U.S., companies Nutriati and ProEarth also making chickpea powder for use in a variety of food and beverage products. However, ChickP’s distinguishing factor is the super-high protein content of its chickpea isolates, which means that dairy alternative companies can more easily develop products with just as much protein as the real thing.
We haven’t tried out products made with ChickP’s protein, so it’s too early to say if it’ll have the power to break into the already crowded alt-dairy space. However, with the hunger for plant-based dairy on the rise, I expect that ChickP will have no problem finding global food companies willing to develop products using their super protein.
The question is whether they’ll taste good enough to keep consumers coming back in the same way that others, like oat milk, have.