Family-owned Sask. pulse processor sold

A well-known Saskatchewan pulse processing company has a new owner.

Belle Pulses, a family-owned pulse processing company based at Bellevue, Sask., has been sold to Eat Well Group Inc., a publicly traded investment company specializing in the acquisition of businesses involved in the agri-food, food technology and plant-based food sectors.

Eat Well acquired Belle Pulses in August, along with a second company Sapientia, which specializes in the development of new plant-based snacks.

Sapientia will continue to focus on the creation of new food products including plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, extruded snacks and other high protein, low fat plant-based foods.

Eat Well’s president, Marc Aneed, said Belle Pulses will continue to operate as it has in the past, sourcing and processing high quality pulse crops from growers across Western Canada.

Belle Pulse founders, brothers Tony and Francis Gaudet, will continue to manage the company, which had gross revenues of about $54 million and before-tax earnings of more than $7 million in 2020, according to Eat Well.

Eat Well Group will continue to look for additional investment opportunities in the agri-food and plant-based food sectors.

“We understand that plant-based foods (companies) must have a complete and critically linked supply chain,” said Aneed in a recent interview with the Western Producer.

“With that in mind, Eat Well Investment Group made its first investment in Belle Pulses… which has its four decades of legacy with an absolutely fantastic team of Tony and Frances and the rest of the company….”

Eat Well’s first market-ready product — a plant-based snack called P-Curls — is expected to be test-marketed later this year and will appear in Co-op retail stores across Western Canada, Aneed said.

The Gaudet family has been growing, sourcing, processing and shipping peas to food companies for more than 75 years.

Jean Gaudet — Tony’s and Francis’s grandfather — began growing field peas in the mid-1940s or early 1950s and was among the first farmers in Saskatchewan to grow yellow peas.

Jean’s son Ronald, carried on the tradition and, in addition to growing the crop, began buying peas from other growers.

The peas were cleaned, processed, bagged and shipped to Catelli — makers of Habitant Pea Soup — as well as other food manufacturers.

Tony took over the family’s processing business in the late 1970s and Francis became a co-owner a few years later.

What began as a small, farm-based business has grown into a global supplier of value-added pulse products with

customers in Canada, the United States, South America, Central America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

Earlier this year, the Gaudets were named recipients of the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ Pulse Promoter Award, which recognizes important contributions and innovations that have helped to build the Saskatchewan pulse sector.

According to analysts, the plant-based food sector is on the verge of a massive global expansion, fuelled partly by the growing demand for plant-based meat alternatives.

By some estimates, the plant-based meat market was valued at $4.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $8.5 billion by 2025.

Protein Industries Canada believes the value will soar to $85 billion by 2036 and potentially as much as $143 billion.

Earlier this year, Eat Well announced Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, has joined the company as a strategic adviser.

Khaled is known as a pioneer in plant-based food investing and venture-backed food startups that address issues such as global food security, human and animal welfare and climate change.

Belle Pulses is the second Saskatoon-area pulse processor that has recently come under new ownership.

In late 2020, Verdient Foods based at Vanscoy, Sask., was acquired by Ingredion Incorporated, an ingredient manufacturer based in Chicago.

Since then, the Vanscoy facility has been expanded to accommodate increased production of pulse flours and value-added pulse protein concentrates.