NEW YORK — Five years ago Ingredion, Inc. may have best been described as a starch and sweetener company. Today, the company considers itself “a total solutions provider,” said James P. Zallie, president and chief executive officer.

Presenting at the BMO Capital Markets Global Farm to Market Conference held May 18 in New York, Mr. Zallie said Ingredion’s ingredients are present in 70% of all new product introductions that typically happen with new product development.

“The breadth or reach of our products can find their way into much of the food innovation that’s occurring in the food industry,” he said.

Ingredion has branched out beyond sweeteners and texturizers into the area of plant-based protein.

“We placed a significant bet in plant-based proteins,” he said. “And it’s a diversified portfolio beyond just one magic bullet of, say, pea protein isolate, but a whole portfolio.”

Mr. Zallie said Ingredion has invested about $250 million on plant-based protein over the past four years. The company has built out a facility in South Sioux City, Neb., that is producing pea protein isolate, and also has a facility in Vanscoy, Sask., that produces a range of pulse-based flours and concentrates. He said the facilities give Ingredion the ability to formulate for protein-fortified products for sports nutrition, bakery, snacks, alternative dairy and alternative meats.

Even with its move into plant-based proteins Ingredion has remained rooted in the starches and sweetener products categories.

Ingredion has made a strategic investment in stevia from leaf extract. Mr. Zallie said the company is bioconverting and fermenting the stevia, which is important from a standpoint of sustainability going forward long term.

“In sugar reduction, we made an acquisition of PureCircle, which was the leading stevia manufacturer, primarily in leaf extract and bioconverted,” he explained. “And that has proved incredibly timely, and we have turned that business around. It’s fully integrated. And not only that, it’s growing very significantly, and we see tremendous prospects for this.

“We’re investing in greater-tasting or better-tasting stevia products. When stevia first came out, there was a first-generation product called Reb A. There’s now a product called Reb M. It tastes very close to real sugar. It’s about 300 times sweeter than sucrose. And it really is a great product. In addition, we’ve partnered with a company called Amyris, which is a leading synthetic biology company, to produce fermented Reb M from sugar cane down in Brazil, very sustainable. And so that has an opportunity and is lowering the cost profile, which will give increased penetration.”

In texturizers, Ingredion has diversified beyond corn-based products in recent years, Mr. Zallie said.

“That’s been part of our strategy for a while to be into tapioca,” he said. “We’re the world’s leader in tapioca starches, rice-based products and also something that we don’t talk about … is pea-based products, pea starch. So pea starch is a byproduct of pea protein isolate. Interesting. That is growing also right now because the market for starches is very, very tight. So we’re actually selling everything we can make in starch-based texturizers, and pricing is very strong.”

Mr. Zallie said texturizers, which impart mouthfeel, texture, crunchiness, crispiness and smoothness in a product, are becoming even more important in today’s high inflationary environment as customers look to extend expensive ingredient or replace expensive ingredients.

Commenting on the current environment, he said, “Our formulation scientists are working with customers that are coming to us that can’t find certain ingredients and want to replace skim milk powder, for example, which is very high in price. Because you can impart emulsification properties to a starch to replace casein, for example, in a protein. Or you want to extend gelatin, for example, in a gummy bear or something like that and still get a degree of clarity, but also the bite to it. So texturizers really find themselves in so many different applications.”