PURIS Grows Stronger with Cargill’s Support
President Tyler Lorenzen continues to drive the shift to more sustainable food by expanding PURIS’ pea protein operations.
Jerry Lorenzen was ahead of his time in 1985 when he envisioned a food system that would rally growers, makers and eaters together. He believed that with the right focus and effort, a breeding company could build a plant-based protein business around feeding people; and if it tastes good and works for the farmers, it was a business that could scale. This is PURIS.
“My dad, Jerry Lorenzen, has always been ahead of his time,” President Tyler Lorenzen says. “Back when he and my mother, Renee, started the company, they had two children, my older sister Nicole and me. This did not stop them. We grew up working in the fields, breeding plants and learning about plant proteins and the importance they will have as the population grows to over 10 billion in our lifetime.”
Although Tyler Lorenzen heard his dad talk about this every day growing up, it didn’t completely make sense to him until he understood the impact people can have – good or bad – by their personal food choices. Food selection ties into so many things, including food security, trade, climate change, water quality, soil health and economic viability of American farmers. “These are the stories my dad has shared my entire life, and have become the daily news conversations now,” he adds.
A lot of diets talk about the foods you do not eat. At PURIS, the company talks about the foods that we do eat: plants. “It is our job to ensure eaters can enjoy eating plants and enable the majority of calories to come from plants, which we call a ‘Plant Strong Planet,’” Lorenzen says.
A Turning Point
Lorenzen grew up in the family business, but played professional football until 2011 when he was cut from the New Orleans Saints. “It was a moment that I will not forget; when I knew my playing days were done,” he remembers. “I took my dad’s advice and focused on the next thing in life I could tackle.”
He joined PURIS in 2011 and at the time, the company was at an inflection point. “Did we want to keep it boutique and focus on seeds and non-GMO and organic crop merchandising, or did we want to expand into plant proteins, the next step in my dad’s plan?” Lorenzen says.
By the end of 2011, PURIS decided to borrow money and buy a protein plant in Turtle Lake, Wis. A former dairy plant, the Turtle Lake facility was forgotten and left to rust. PURIS purchased it, hired back five employees and PURIS food scientist and inventor of PURIS Pea Protein Kushal Chandak, and started developing the business.
“Fast forward eight years, and we now have nearly 90 employees at that plant alone and are doing the same in Dawson, Minn., to revitalize another dairy plant into a non-GMO and organic plant protein facility,” Lorenzen says.
Non-GMO and Certified Organic have always been the backbone of what PURIS stands for. “We use natural breeding for all of our seeds and believe that consumers should be aware of what is in their food – that includes GMOs,” Lorenzen notes. “We believe that traceability and understanding where your food comes from, and where it is made, will continue to be more and more important with new technology being incorporated into our food systems.”
PURIS has built its system using organic and non-GMO methods to enhance its United States farmers’ toolkit, growing profitability and value for their farms. PURIS supplies farmers with seed and support to grow successful non-GMO crops, establish clean practices and navigate the certification process. The company buys back the crops to make its ingredients.
PURIS non-GMO beans, pulses and corn are adapted to the unique conditions of its partner farms. Each variety is naturally bred for superior yield, disease resistance and vigor while leaving the soil healthier than it started.
Investing in the Future
Cargill recently invested $75 million in PURIS’ pea protein manufacturing business, which brings the company’s total investment in PURIS to more than $100 million. The investments will allow PURIS to grow its production of U.S.A. made pea protein faster.
“We are in the process of retrofitting the Dawson facility into a pea protein plant where we will be making PURIS Pea Protein, PURIS Pea Starch and other pulse proteins designed through our proprietary process at this plant,” Lorenzen says. “It allows our customers to grow faster with the certainty that PURIS will be able to scale ahead of the market growth.”
PURIS will continue to advance its technologies in its current and future plants. “Our customers expect PURIS to build the best-tasting, non-GMO and organic ingredients along with the food applications that drive the shift to more sustainable food,” Lorenzen says. “We are applying this methodology from seed through our entire manufacturing process. You should expect more to come from our innovation in 2020 and beyond.”