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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Benson Hill Finalizes Go-To Market Strategy for Soy-Based Protein with $102M Acquisition

By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

As demand for plant-based protein ingredients continues to grow, sustainable food tech innovator Benson Hill announced it has acquired ZFS Creston, an innovative food white flake and soy flour manufacturer in Southwest Iowa for approximately $102 million.

This deal marks the final move by Benson Hill to establish its ability to convert its proprietary soybeans into value-added soy protein ingredients for the underserved human and pet food categories.

Founded in 2012, Benson Hill leverages Cloud Biology®, or the combination of data science, machine learning, AI techniques, biology, and genomics, to unlock nature’s genetic diversity in plants to create innovative food and ingredient products.

The company manifests its seed-to-shelf innovation through CropOS™, its platform that uses predictive analytics to simulate tens of millions of genetic outcomes for plants, referencing an ever-expanding and unrivaled data library to make Cloud Biology® actionable.

This technology enables Benson Hill to accelerate and precisely develop more sustainable feed, food, and ingredient options years quicker than traditional crop breeding systems through an approach that decreases development costs, shortens time to market, meets consumer demand, and links the interests of both the growers and consumers.

In March 2020, Benson Hill announced its plans to release new ultra-high protein soybean varieties in 2021 that will be the first commercially available soybeans to effectively replace soy protein concentrate via traditional soybean crushing.

This achievement represents huge potential, as recent data cited by the company forecasts that the value of the global plant protein market has the potential to surpass $162 billion by 2030.

In September 2021 the company announced it had acquired a soybean crushing facility in Seymour, Indiana, from Rose Acre Farms. This facility ultimately had the capacity to process Benson Hill’s proprietary soybean varieties, including the first commercial plantings of its Ultra-High Protein soybeans, harvested in the fall of 2021, after the company exceeded its target to double contracted soybean acres delivering a 133 percent year-on-year increase for the 2021 growing season.

Today, Benson Hill enhances and extends its integrated value chain capabilities with the addition of ZFS Creston, which is equipped to produce soy meal and oil, as well as food-grade soy white flake, flour, and grits. These products can be marketed as ingredients or used as raw materials in the production of concentrates, isolates, and textured proteins.

“The ZFS Creston team has done a terrific job optimizing the facility and working with customers, suppliers and the Creston, Iowa community to create a successful, value-added food ingredient business,” said Eric Meeuwsen, co-president and COO, ZFS Creston.

And because Benson Hill’s technology increases protein expression in the plants themselves, the need for additional processing is reduced, therefore, the capacity and capabilities inherent in ZSF Creston will immediately deliver a portfolio of “better-from-the-beginning non-GMO ingredients that are less processed, more sustainable, identity-preserved, traceable, and domestically sourced”, according to the company.

“The acquisition of ZFS Creston, combined with our proprietary Ultra-High Protein soybean varieties, positions Benson Hill to deliver a portfolio of improved ingredients as an innovative unlock to bottlenecks in the rapidly growing but capacity-constrained plant-based movement,” said Matt Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill. “This acquisition advances our integrated business model as a more efficient route to market with a smaller footprint that better aligns with consumer preferences, enabling us to harness the genetic potential of plants and help scale the growth of plant-based markets.”

This deal will primarily be funded through a new debt facility; a move preferred by Benson Hill compared to building the capacity through a capex investment, as it positions the company to immediately offer more sustainable ingredients to rapidly growing segments including plant-based meat, bakery, cereal and snacks, fermented proteins, and the pet food market.

“The Creston operation is expected to accelerate commercialization through the immediate ability to produce our ingredient portfolio,” said Bruce Bennett, president, Ingredients, Benson Hill. “The investment also enables deeper insight to customer preferences as we deliver much-needed innovation in other high-value food ingredients in the future. ZFS Creston is an established protein supplier with a respected and knowledgeable team on-site. We’re thrilled to welcome them to Benson Hill.”

Creston’s Eric Meeuwsen added, “We are grateful for the hard work of everyone at ZFS Creston. We are confident Benson Hill will provide excellent opportunities for employees, local farmers and the community through the commercialization of their innovative, higher nutrition, soy-based food ingredients.”

Lynda Kiernan-Stone is editor with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, as well as HighQuest Group's Oilseed & Grain News. She can be reached at


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